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Clear . . . Simple . . . Easy to 

This world-renowned Bible handbook is 
updated and revised to provide even 
greater clarity, insight, and usefulness. 

Now with NIV text! 

Do you need help understanding the Bible? 
Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New 
International Version makes the Bible’s wisdom 
and message accessible to you. Whether you’ve 
never read the Bible before or have read it many 
times, you’ll find insights here that can give you a 
firm grasp of God’s Word. You’ll develop an 
appreciation for the cultural, religious, and 
geographic settings in which the story of the Bible 
unfolds. You’ll see how its different themes fit 

together in a remarkable way. And you’ll see the 
heart of God and the person of Jesus Christ 
revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Written for 
both mind and heart, this completely revised, 
updated, and expanded 25th edition of Halley’s 
Bible Handbook retains Dr. Halley’s hi gh ly 
personal style. It features: 

• All-new maps, photographs, and illustrations 

• Contemporary design 

• Bible references in easy-to-read, best-selling 
New International Version (NTV) 

• Practical Bible reading programs 

• Helpful tips for Bible study 

• Fascinating archaeological information 

• Easy-to-understand sections on how we got 
the Bible and on church history 

We want to hear from you. Please send your 
comments about this book to us in care of the 
address below. Thank you. 











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Halley s Bible Handbook with the New International Version 
Completely revised and expanded 25th edition of Halley s Bible 
ePub Format 

Copyright © 2000 by Flalley’s Bible Handbook, Inc. 

Requests for information should be addressed to: 

Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for 
the print edition of this title. 

elSBN: 0-310-29607-2 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from 

the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 
1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission 
of Zondervan. All rights reserved. 

Other permissions are listed under Sources , which hereby become 
part of this copyright page. 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, 
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any 

means — electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other — 
except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior 
permission of the publisher. 

Revising editor/writer: Ed M. van der Maas 
Archaeology and geography: Carl G. Rasmussen 
Church history and Jewish history: Ruth F. van der Maas 
Supervising editor: James E. Ruark 
Interior design: Sherri L. Hoffman 
Composition: Sherri L. Hoffman and Nancy Wilson 
Maps: Jane Haradine 

“The Bible is the most priceless possession 
of the human race. ” 


Cover Page 
Title Page 
Copyright Page 

Foreword to the 25th Edition 

The Heart of the Bible 

Note to the Reader 

The Heart of the Bible 

The Habit of Bible Reading 

Going to Church As an Act of Worship 

Notable Sayings About the Bible 

Bible Backgrounds 

What the Bible Is 

How the Bible Is Organized 

What the Bible Is About 

The Main Thought of Each Bible Book 

The Setting of the Bible 

1. Why the Setting Is Important 

2. The Ancient Near East 

3. The World Powers of Biblical Times 

4. Roads and Travel in Biblical Times 

5. The Promised Land: Israel 

6. The Holy City: Jerusalem 
Writing. Books, and the Bible 

The Old Testament 

In the Beginning 

Genesis 1-11 

The Time of the Patriarchs 

Genesis 12-50 

The Exodus from Egypt 


The Conquest and Settlement of Canaan 


The Monarchy: David. Solomon, and the 
Divided Kingdom 
1 Samuel-2 Chronicles 
The Babylonian Exile and the Return from 

Ezra— Esther 

Poetry and Wisdom 
Job-Song of Songs 
The Prophets 

The Messiah in the Old Testament 

The 400 Years Between the Testaments 

The New Testament 

The Life of Jesus: An Overview 
Was Jesus the Son of God? 

What Was Jesus Like? 

The 12 Disciples 

The Four Gospels 

A Harmony of the Gospels 


The Early Church 

Acts- Jude 

The Age to Come 


After the New Testament 

A Brief History of the Western Church 
A Brief History of the Holy Land and the 

Jews Since the Time of Christ 

Reading and Studying the Bible 

Reading Through the Bible 
Basic Bible Study Tools 


Su pplemental Materials 

How We Got the Bible 

1. How the Bible Books Came Together 

2. How the Text of the Bible Was Preserved 

3. Do We Have the “Original” Text of the 

4. English Translations of the Bible 

5. The Apocrypha 
Rediscovering the Biblical Past 
The House of Herod 
Distance Charts 

l.Old Testament Cities 

2. New Testament Cities (The Gospels ) 

3. New Testament Cities (Acts) 

Jewish Calendar 

Henry H. Halley — A Memoir 


About the Publisher 
Share Your Thoughts 


The 25th edition of Halley’s Bible Handbook 
represents a continuation of my great-grandfather’s 
ministry. Henry H. Halley dedicated his life to the 
spreading of God’s Word. His desire was for 
everyone to read, know, and love the Bible and to 
believe and accept its God-inspired message. 

It is my heartfelt desire that this 25th edition of 
Halley’s Bible Handbook, now with Bible study 
tips, updated archaeological information, and new 
maps and pictures, continues to be a blessing to 
every reader. 

I would like to express my deep love and 
appreciation for my grandmother, Julia Berry, who 
nurtured and supported Halley’s Bible Handbook 
for many years after the death of her father, Henry 
Halley. Her early work on this 25th edition 
provided us insight into her father’s ministry and 

became our guide as we completed the revisions. 

Many thanks to all those who have supported 
and helped with this 25th edition, especially my 
mother, Julie Schneeberger; my husband, Gary 
Wicker; Dr. Stan Gundry, Ed and Ruth van der 
Maas, and Carl Rasmussen. We have seen many 
awesome examples of how the Lord has clearly 
worked through this team of people and others to 
complete this new edition of Halley’s Bible 

As always, this Handbook is, in the words of 
my great-grandfather, “dedicated to the proposition 
that Every Christian should be a Constant and 
Devoted Reader of the Bible; and that the primary 
business of the Church and Ministry is to lead, 
foster, and encourage their people in that habit.” 

— Patricia Wicker 

"he Heart of the Bible 


The following pages are the heart and soul of 
Halley’s Bible Handbook. 

Dr. Halley’s goal was not to write a book that 
would help people know more about the Bible. Dr. 
Halley’s passion was to get people and churches to 
read the Bible in order that they might meet and 
listen to the God of the Bible and come to love His 
Son, Jesus Christ. 

The rest of this book is of little lasting value if 
Dr. Halley’s central convictions, stated so 
passionately and forcefully in this section, are 

We urge you to take the time to read — and 
periodically reread — this section. 

'he Heart of the Bible 

This book is built on two central convictions: 

1 . The Bible is God’s Word. 

2. Christ is the heart and center of the Bible. 

I. The Bible Is God’s Word 

Apart from any theory of inspiration, or any theory 
of how the Bible books came to their present form, 
or how much the text may have suffered in 
transmission at the hands of editors and copyists; 
apart from the question of how much is to be 
interpreted literally and how much figuratively, or 
what is historical and what may be poetical — if we 
simply assume that the Bible is just what it appears 
to be and study its 66 books to know their contents, 
we will find a unity of thought that indicates that 

one Mind inspired the writing and compilation of 
the whole collection of books. We will find that it 
bears the stamp of its Author and that it is in a 
unique and distinctive sense the Word of God. 

Many people hold the view that the Bible is a 
collection of ancient stories about people’s efforts 
to find God, a record of human experiences in their 
reaching for God that led to a gradually improving 
idea of God by building on the experiences of 
preceding generations. This means, of course, that 
the many, many passages in the Bible in which it is 
said that God spoke are merely using a figure of 
speech and that God did not really speak. Rather, 
people put their ideas into religious language that 
claimed to be the language of God, and in reality it 
was only what they themselves imagined God 
might say. This viewpoint reduces the Bible to the 
level of other books, ft is made into a human book 
pretending to be divine, rather than a divine book. 

We reject this view utterly, and with 
abhorrence! We believe that the Bible is not an 
account of human efforts to find God, but rather an 
account of God’s effort to reveal Himself to 

humanity. It is God’s own record of His dealings 
with people in His unfolding revelation of Himself 
to the human race. The Bible is the revealed will 
of the Creator of all of humanity, given to His 
creatures by the Creator Himself, for instruction 
and guidance along life’s paths. 

There can be no question that the books of the 
Bible were composed by human authors; we don’t 
even know who some of these authors were. Nor 
do we know just how God directed these authors to 
write. But we believe and know that God did 
direct them and that these books therefore must be 
exactly what God wanted them to be. 

There is a difference between the Bible and all 
other books. Authors may pray for God’s help and 
guidance, and God does help and guide them. 
There are many good books in the world that leave 
the unmistakable impression that God helped the 
authors to write them. But even the most saintly 
authors would hardly presume to claim for their 
books that God wrote them. 

Yet that is what the Bible claims for itself and 
what the people of God through the millennia have 

learned and understood and claimed. God Himself 
superintended and directed the writing of the Bible 
books in such a way that what was written was the 
writing of God. The Bible is God’s Word in a 
sense in which no other book in the world is God’s 

Many statements in the Bible are expressed in 
ancient thought forms and ancient language forms. 
Today we would express these same ideas in a 
different form and in modern language rather than 
in the language of ancient times. But even so, the 
Bible contains precisely the things God wants 
mankind to know, in exactly the form in which He 
wants us to know them. And to the end of time, the 
“dear old Book” will remain the one and only 
answer to humanity’s quest for God. 

• Everyone should love the Bible. 

• Everyone should be a regular reader of the 

• Everyone should strive to live by the Bible’s 

• The Bible should have the central place in the 

life and work of every church and every 

• The pulpit’s one business is the simple 
teaching of God’s Word, expressing in the 
language of today the truths that are expressed 
in ancient thought and language forms in the 

2. Christ Is the Center and Heart 
of the Bible 

The Bible consists of two parts: the Old Testament 
and the New Testament. 

• The Old Testament is an account of a nation: 

• The New Testament is an account of a man: 
Jesus, God’s Son. 

The nation was founded and nurtured by God to 
bring the Man into the world. In Jesus, God 
Himself became a man to provide the means for the 

redemption of mankind. Jesus also gives humanity 
a concrete, definite, tangible idea of what kind of 
person to think of when we think of God: God is 
like Jesus. Jesus was God incarnate, God in human 

His appearance on the earth is the central event 
of all history: the Old Testament sets the stage for 
it; the New Testament describes it. 

Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) lived the most 
memorable, beautiful life ever known. He was 
born of a virgin and led a sinless life. As a man, 
Jesus was the kindest, tenderest, gentlest, most 
patient, most sympathetic man who ever lived. He 
loved people. He hated to see people in trouble. 
He loved to forgive. He loved to help. He did 
marvelous miracles to feed hungry people. For 
relief of the suffering He forgot to take food for 
Himself. Multitudes, weary, pain-ridden, and 
heartsick, came to Him and found healing and 
relief. It is said of Him, and of no other, that if all 
the deeds of kindness that He did were written 
down, the world could not contain the books. 

That is the kind of man Jesus was. 

That is the kind of person God is. 

Then Jesus died on the cross to take away the 
sin of the world, to become the Redeemer and 
Savior of humanity. 

He rose from the dead and is alive now — not 
merely a historical character but a living Person. 
This is the most important fact of history and the 
most vital force in the world today. 

The whole Bible is built around this beautiful 
story of Christ and around His promise of life 
eternal to those who accept Him. The Bible was 
written only that people might believe, and 
understand, and know, and love, and follow Christ. 

Christ, the center and heart of the Bible, the 
center and heart of history, is also the center and 
heart of our lives. Our eternal destiny is in His 
hand. Our acceptance or rejection of Him as our 
Lord and Savior determines for each of us eternal 
glory or eternal ruin — heaven or hell, one or the 

The most important decision anyone is ever 
called on to make is to settle in one’s heart, once 
for all, the matter of one’s attitude toward Christ. 

On that depends everything. 

It is a glorious thing to be a Christian, the most 
exalted privilege of mankind. The Creator of all 
things wants to have a personal relationship with 
each and every one of us! To accept Christ as 
Savior, Lord, and Master, and to strive sincerely 
and devotedly to follow in the way of life He 
taught, is certainly and by far the most reasonable 
and most satisfactory way to live. It means peace, 
peace of mind, contentment of heart, forgiveness, 
happiness, hope, life abundant, life that shall never 

How can anyone be so blind, or so dumb, as to 
go through life and face death without the Christian 
hope? Apart from Christ, what is there, what can 
there be, either for this world or the next, to make 
life worthwhile? We all have to die. Why try to 
laugh it off or try to deny it? It seems as if every 
human being would want to welcome Christ with 
open arms and consider it the proudest privilege of 
his or her life to wear the Christian name. 

In the final analysis, the most marvelous thing 
in life is the consciousness, in the inner depths of 

our soul, that we live for Christ. And though our 
efforts be ever so feeble, we toil at our daily tasks 
in hope of being able to have done something to lay 
as an offering at His feet, in humble gratitude and 
adoration, when we meet Him face to face. 

The Habit of Bible Reading 

Everybody should love the Bible. Everybody 
should read the Bible. 


It is God’s Word. It holds the solution of life. It 
tells about the best Friend humanity ever had, the 
noblest, kindest, truest Man who ever walked on 
this earth. 

It is the most beautiful story ever told. It is the 
best guide to human conduct ever known. It gives a 
meaning, a glow, a joy, a victory, a destiny, and a 
glory to life elsewhere unknown. 

There is nothing in history, or in literature, that 
in any way compares with the simple record of the 
Man of Galilee, who spent His days and nights 
ministering to the suffering, teaching human 
kindness, dying for human sin, rising to life that 
shall never end, and promising eternal security and 

eternal happiness to all who will come to Him. 

Most people, in their serious moods, must have 
some question in their minds as to how things are 
going to stack up when the end comes. Laugh it off 
and toss it aside as we may, that day will come. 
And then what? 

Well, it is the Bible that has the answer. And an 
unmistakable answer it is. There is a God. There is 
a heaven. There is a hell. There is a Savior. There 
will be a day of judgment. Happy is the person 
who in this life makes his or her peace with the 
Christ of the Bible and gets ready for the final 

How can any thoughtful person keep his or her 
heart from warming up to Christ and to the book 
that tells about Him? Everybody ought to love the 
Bible. Everybody. Everybody. 

Yet the widespread neglect of the Bible by 
churches and by church people is simply appalling. 
Oh, we talk about the Bible, and defend the Bible, 
and praise the Bible, and exalt the Bible. Yes 
indeed! But many church members seldom ever 
even look into a Bible — indeed, would be 

ashamed to be seen reading the Bible. And an 
alarming percentage of church leadership generally 
seems to be making no serious effort to get people 
to be Bible readers. 

We are intelligent about everything else in the 
world. Why not be intelligent about our religion? 
We read newspapers, magazines, novels, and all 
kinds of books, and listen to the radio and watch 
television by the hour. Yet most of us do not even 
know the names of the Bible books. Shame on us! 
Worse still, the pulpit, which could easily remedy 
the situation, seems often not to care and generally 
does not emphasize personal Bible reading. 

Individual, direct contact with God’s Word is 
the principal means of Christian growth. All the 
leaders in Christian history who displayed any 
kind of spiritual power have been devoted readers 
of the Bible. 

The Bible is the book we live by. Bible 
reading is the means by which we learn, and keep 
fresh in our minds, the ideas that mold our lives. 
Our lives are the product of our thoughts. To live 
right, we need to think right. We must read the 

Bible frequently and regularly so that God’s 
thoughts may be frequently and regularly in our 
minds; so that His thoughts may become our 
thoughts; so that our ideas may become conformed 
to God’s ideas; so that we may be transformed into 
God’s own image and be made fit for eternal 
companionship with our Creator. 

We may, indeed, absorb Christian truth, in 
some measure, by attending religious services, 
listening to sermons, Bible lessons, and 
testimonies, and by reading Christian literature. 

But however good and helpful these things may 
be, they give us God’s truth secondhand, diluted 
through human channels and, to quite an extent, 
obscured by human ideas and traditions. 

Such things cannot possibly take the place of 
reading for ourselves the Bible itself, and 
grounding our faith and hope and life directly in 
God’s Word, rather than in what people say about 
God’s Word. 

God’s Word is the weapon of the Spirit of God 
for the redemption and perfection of the human 
soul. It is not enough to listen to others talk and 

teach and preach about the Bible. We need to keep 
ourselves, every one of us, in direct touch with 
God’s Word. It is the power of God in our hearts. 

Bible reading is a basic Christian habit. 

We do not mean that we should worship the 
Bible as a fetish. But we do worship the God and 
the Savior the Bible tells us about. And because 
we love our God and our Savior, we love dearly 
and devotedly the book that is from Him and about 

Nor do we mean that the habit of Bible reading 
is in itself a virtue, for it is possible to read the 
Bible without applying its teachings to one’s own 
life. And there are those who read the Bible and 
yet are mean and crooked and un-Christian. But 
they are the exception. 

As a rule, Bible reading, if done in the right 
spirit, is a habit out of which all Christian virtues 
grow — the most effective character- forming power 
known to mankind. 

Bible reading is an act of religious devotion. 
Our attitude toward the Bible is a pretty sure 
indication of our attitude toward Christ. If we love 
a person, we love to read about him or her, do we 
not? If we could only bring ourselves to think of 
our Bible reading as an act of devotion to Christ, 
we might be inclined to treat the matter less lightly. 

It is a glorious thing to be a Christian. The most 
exalted privilege any mortal can have is to walk 
through life hand in hand with Christ as Savior and 
Guide. Or, to put it more correctly, to toddle along 
at His side and, though always stumbling, never 
letting go of His hand. 

This personal relationship of each of us with 
Christ is one of the intimate things of life, and we 
do not talk much about it, probably because we 
often believe that we are so pitifully unworthy to 
wear His name. Why would the Creator of all 
things care about me? But deep down in our hearts, 
in our serious moods, we know that because of our 
weakness, our worldliness, our frivolity, our 
selfishness, and our sins, we need Him more than 
we love anything else in this world. He is our 

Father. And in our saner moments we know that we 
should not willingly offend or hurt Him for 
anything. Why would we intentionally hurt the One 
who loves us and whom we love? We are 

The Bible is the book that tells about Christ 
and His immeasurable love for us. Is it possible to 
love Christ and at the same time be complacently 
indifferent to His Word? Is it possible? Each one 
of us has to make daily choices — to serve Him and 
not the world. The Bible teaches us how! 

The Bible is also the best devotional book. 
Booklets and books of daily devotions, now 
published in such abundance, may have their place. 
But they are no substitute for the Bible. The Bible 
is God’s own word, and no other book can take its 
place. Every Christian, young and old, should be a 
faithful reader of the Bible. 

George Mueller, who, in his orphanages in 
Bristol, England, did by prayer and trust one of the 
most remarkable things in Christian history, 
attributed his success, on the human side, to his 
love for the Bible. He said: 

I believe that the one chief reason that I have 
been kept in happy useful service is that I 
have been a lover of Holy Scripture. It has 
been my habit to read the Bible through four 
times a year; in a prayerful spirit, to apply it 
to my heart, and practice what I find there. I 
have been for sixty-nine years a happy man. 

Helps to Bible Study 

The Bible is a big book, in reality a library of 
books from the far distant past. And we need all 
the help we can get in trying to understand it. But 
even so, it is surprising how largely the Bible is 
self-interpretive when we know what is in it. 
There are difficulties aplenty in the Bible, even 
beyond the comprehension of the most erudite. But, 
for all that, the main teachings of the Bible are 
unmistakable, so plain that a child can understand 
the heart of the Bible. (At the end of this book you 
will find suggestions for books that are helpful in 
studying the Bible [see Basic Bible Study Tools ]. 
But they should never take the place of the simple 

reading of the Bible with an open heart and mind.) 

Accept the Bible just as it is, for exactly what it 
claims to be. Don’t worry about the theories of the 
critics. The ingenious efforts of modern criticism 
to undermine the historical reliability of the Bible 
will pass; the Bible itself will still stand as the 
light of the human race to the end of time. Pin your 
faith to the Bible. It is God’s Word. It will never 
let you down. For us human beings, it is the rock of 
ages. Trust its teachings, and be happy forever. 

Read the Bible with an open mind. Don’t try to 
strait-jacket all its passages into the mold of a few 
pet doctrines. And don’t read into its passages 
ideas that are not there. But try to search out fairly 
and honestly the main teachings and lessons of 
each passage. Thus we will come to believe what 
we ought to believe; for the Bible is abundantly 
able to take care of itself if given a chance. 

Read the Bible thoughtfully. In Bible reading, we 
need to watch ourselves very closely, lest our 
thoughts wander and our reading become 

perfunctory and meaningless. We must determine 
resolutely to keep our minds on what we are 
reading, to do our best to understand what we can 
and not to worry too much about what we don’t 
understand, and to be on the lookout for lessons for 

Keep a pencil at hand. It is a good thing, as we 
read, to mark passages we like and to go now and 
then through the pages and reread passages we 
have marked. In time a well-marked Bible will 
become very dear to us, as the day draws near for 
us to meet the Author. 

Habitual, systematic reading of the Bible is what 
counts. Occasional or spasmodic reading does not 
mean much. Unless we have some sort of system to 
follow, and hold to it with resolute determination, 
the chances are that we will not read the Bible 
very much at all. Our inner life, like our body, 
needs its daily food. 

A certain time each day, whatever reading plan 
we follow, should be set aside for it. Otherwise 

we are likely to neglect or forget to read the Bible. 
First thing in the morning is good if our work 
routine permits it. Or in the evening, at the close of 
the day’s work, we might find ourselves freer from 
the strain of hurry. Or perhaps both morning and 
evening. For some, a period in the middle of the 
day may be more suitable. 

The particular time of day does not greatly 
matter. The important thing is that we choose a 
time that best fits in with our daily round of work, 
and that we try to stick with it and not be 
discouraged if now and then our routine is broken 
by things beyond our control. 

On Sundays we might do a good part of our 
Bible reading, since it is the Lord’s day, set aside 
for the Lord’s work. 

Memorize the names of the Bible books. Do this 
first. The Bible is composed of 66 books. Each of 
these books is about something. The starting point 
for any sort of intelligent conception of the Bible 
is, first of all, to know what those books are, the 
order in which they are arranged, and, in a general 

way, what each one is about. (See The Main 
Thought of Each Bible Book. ) 

Memorize favorite verses. Thoroughly memorize 
them and repeat them often to yourself — sometimes 
when you are alone, or in the night to help put 
yourself to sleep on the everlasting arms. These 
are the verses that we live on. 

To run God’s thoughts through our mind often 
will make our mind grow to become more like 
God’s mind; and as our mind grows more like 
God’s mind, our whole life will be transformed 
into His image. It is one of the very best spiritual 
helps we can have. 

Plans of Bible Reading 

There are many different plans for Bible reading. 
Several plans are suggested later in this book (see 
Reading Through the Bible ). One plan will appeal 
to one person, another plan to another person. The 
same person may, at different times, like different 
plans. The particular plan does not greatly matter. 

The essential thing is that we read the Bible with 
some degree of regularity. 

Our plan of reading should cover the whole 
Bible with reasonable frequency. It is all God’s 
Word, all one story, a literary structure of profound 
and marvelous unity, centered around Christ. Christ 
is the heart and climax of the Bible. The whole 
Bible may very properly be called the story of 
Christ. The Old Testament paves the way for His 
coming. The four Gospels tell the story of His 
earthly life. The New Testament letters explain His 
teachings. And Revelation shows us His triumph. 

A well-balanced plan of Bible reading, we think, 
might be something like this: for every time we 
read the Bible through, let us read the New 
Testament an extra time or two, with frequent 
rereading of favorite chapters in both Testaments. 

Later in this book you will find several Bible 
reading plans (see Reading Through the Bible ! as 
well as a section that explains the kinds of Bible 
study tools available to help you understand what 
you read, such as concordances, study Bibles, 

Bible dictionaries, and commentaries, and what 
each is used for (see Basic Bible Study Tools h 

Going to Church As an Act of 

“All Christian people ought to go to church each 
and every week, unless hindered by sickness, or 
necessary work, or some other necessity.” 

In a consumer society such as ours, the first 
reaction is, Why? What do I get out of church? 

That question misses the point. 

We are not the purpose of the church — God is. 
Going to church should be an act of worship. 
Every Sunday belongs to Christ. If all Christians 
were to attend church every Sunday, our churches 
would overflow. It would mean power for the 
church. It would be a witness to the community — 
people who worship their Savior as a matter of 
love rather than convenience. The purpose of the 
church is to hold Christ before the people. The 

church was founded by Christ. Christ is the heart of 
the church, and its Lord. The church exists to bear 
witness to Christ. Christ Himself, not the church, is 
the transforming power in people’s lives. The 
mission of the church is to exalt Christ, so that He 
Himself may do His own blessed work in the 
hearts of people. 

That method will never change. The invention 
of printing, which made Bibles and Christian 
literature cheap and abundant so that people may 
read for themselves about Christ, and the coming 
of radio and television, which allow us to sit at 
home and listen to or watch sermons and church 
services — these will never do away with the need 
for the church. It is God’s plan that His people, in 
every community, throughout the whole world, at 
this appointed time, meet together, in this public 
way, to thus publicly honor Christ. 

However, all too often individuals use the 
church as a spiritual filling station. We run on 
empty all week and then expect the church to make 
up for what we do not do — spend time during the 
week reading and reflecting on God’s Word. 

If we neglect the habit of reading the Bible, we 
go to church spiritually starved. We will look to 
the church to fill our empty souls. And we will be 
disappointed, because the church cannot, in one or 
two hours on Sunday morning, fill the void that we 
create by neglecting the Word of God. 

Come to church prepared. Read your Bible 
beforehand. You will be blessed, and Christ will 
be exalted! 

Notable Sayings About the 

Billy Graham: We have in our generation people 
who question if the Bible is the Word of God. 
From beginning to end, the Bible is God’s Word, 
inspired by the Holy Spirit. When I turn to the 
Bible, I know that I am reading truth. And I turn to 
it every day.- 

George Mueller of Bristol: The vigor of our 
spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the 
place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts. I 
solemnly state this from the experience of fifty-four 
years. ... I have read the Bible through one 
hundred times, and always with increasing delight. 
Each time it seems like a new book to me. Great 
has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, 
daily study. I look upon it as a lost day when I have 

not had a good time over the Word of God. 

D. L. Moody: I prayed for faith, and thought that 
some day faith would come down and strike me 
like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One 
day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, “Now 
faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word 
of God.” I had closed my Bible, and prayed for 
faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, 
and faith has been growing ever since. 

Abraham Lincoln: I believe the Bible is the best 
gift God has ever given to man. All the good from 
the Savior of the world is communicated to us 
through this book. 

W. E. Gladstone: I have known ninety-five of the 
world’s great men in my time, and of these eighty- 
seven were followers of the Bible. The Bible is 
stamped with a specialty of origin, and an 
immeasurable distance separates it from all 

George Washington: It is impossible to rightly 
govern the world without God and the Bible. 

Daniel Webster: If there is anything in my thoughts 
or style to commend, the credit is due to my 
parents for instilling in me an early love of the 
Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in 
the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to 
prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its 
instructions and authority, no man can tell how 
sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury 
all our glory in profound obscurity. 

Thomas Carlyle: The Bible is the truest utterance 
that ever came by alphabetic letters from the soul 
of man, through which, as through a window 
divinely opened, all men can look into the stillness 
of eternity, and discern in glimpses their far- 
distant, long- forgotten home. 

John Ruskin: Whatever merit there is in anything 
that I have written is simply due to the fact that 
when I was a child my mother daily read me a part 
of the Bible and daily made me learn a part of it by 

Charles A. Dana: The grand old Book still stands; 

and this old earth, the more its leaves are turned 
and pondered, the more it will sustain and 
illustrate the pages of the Sacred Word. 

Thomas Huxley: The Bible has been the Magna 
Charta of the poor and oppressed. The human race 
is not in a position to dispense with it. 

Patrick Henry: The Bible is worth all other books 
which have ever been printed. 

U. S. Grant: The Bible is the anchor of our 

Horace Greeley: It is impossible to enslave 
mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The 
principles of the Bible are the groundwork of 
human freedom. 

Andrew Jackson: That book, sir, is the rock on 
which our republic rests. 

Robert E, Lee: In all my perplexities and 
distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me 
light and strength. 

Lord Tennyson: Bible reading is an education in 

John Quincy Adams: So great is my veneration 
for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to 
read it the more confident will be my hope that 
they will prove useful citizens of their country and 
respectable members of society. I have for many 
years made it a practice to read through the Bible 
once every year. 

Immanuel Kant: The existence of the Bible, as a 
book for the people, is the greatest benefit which 
the human race has ever experienced. Every 
attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity. 

Charles Dickens: The New Testament is the very 
best book that ever was or ever will be known in 
the world. 

Sir William Herschel: All human discoveries 
seem to be made only for the purpose of 
confirming more and more strongly the truths 
contained in the Sacred Scriptures. 

Sir Isaac Newton: There are more sure marks of 
authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history. 

Goethe: Let mental culture go on advancing, let 
the natural sciences progress in ever greater extent 
and depth, and the human mind widen itself as 
much as it desires; beyond the elevation and moral 
culture of Christianity, as it shines forth in the 
gospels, it will not go. 

Bible Backgrounds 

What the Bible Is 
How the Bible Is Organized 
What the Bible Is About 
The Main Thought of Each Bible Book 
The Setting of the Bible 
Writing, Books, and the Bible 

What the Bible Is 

The Bible is a collection of 66 “books” that were 
written over a period of more than 1,500 years. In 
a typical printed Bible, the longest book (Psalms) 
takes up more than 100 pages, the shortest (2 John) 
less than a page. 

More than 40 different people wrote the 
various books of the Bible. Some of them were 
rich, some were poor. Among them were kings, 
poets, prophets, musicians, philosophers, farmers, 
teachers, a priest, a statesman, a sheepherder, a tax 
collector, a physician, and a couple of fishermen. 
They wrote in palaces and in prisons, in great 
cities and in the wilderness, in times of terrible 
war and in times of peace and prosperity. They 
wrote stories, poems, histories, letters, proverbs, 
and prophecies. 

The Bible is not a textbook or a book of 

abstract theology, to be analyzed, discussed, and 
understood only by highly educated theologians 
and experts. It is a book about real people and 
about the God who is real. 

The Bible is the inspired Word of God. 
Theologians and scholars have argued endlessly 
about the question how a book written by so many 
authors over so many centuries can possibly be 
inspired by God. But it is like sitting down at 
dinner and arguing about the recipe instead of 
tasting the food, enjoying it, and being nourished 
by it. 

As “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” 
so is the proof of the Bible in the reading — with 
open mind and open heart. Such a reading will 
show that the Bible is a divinely inspired, 
interwoven message from God (compare John 
7 : 17 ). 

Because it was written so long ago, there are 
things that we, in the 21st century, may find 
difficult to understand. But our heart and spirit can 
grasp what God’s heart and His Spirit tell us: that 
we are beloved by Him, now and forever. 

How the Bible Is Organized 

At first glance, the Bible is a collection of longer 
and shorter writings without any apparent 
organization except for the main division into two 
parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. 





(39 books) 

(27 books) 



The Old Testament takes up about three-fourths 
of the Bible, the New Testament about one-fourth. 
The book of Psalms is approximately in the middle 

of the Bible. 

The Two Testaments 

The Old Testament was written before the time of 
Christ. It was written mostly in Hebrew, the 
language of the Jewish people, and the Old 
Testament continues to be the Bible of the Jewish 
people. In the very early days of the church, during 
the first decades after Jesus’ death and 
resurrection, the Hebrew Bible was the only Bible 
Christians had. It was not until later, when the New 
Testament came into existence, that the Hebrew 
Bible was called “Old Testament.” The word 
“testament” here means “covenant” (a solemn 
agreement or contract that establishes a formal 
relationship with mutual obligations). The Hebrew 
Bible speaks of the covenant God made with 
Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people. The 
New Testament is about the new covenant that God 
made with all people through Jesus Christ. 

Thus, the Old Testament looks forward to the 
coming of Jesus, the Messiah (or Christ), who will 
save us from our sins and establish God’s 
kingdom, founded on justice and mercy. The New 
Testament tells the story of Jesus and contains 
writings by His early followers. 

Three Groups of Books in Each 

Each Testament 

• Begins with a group of historical books and 

• Ends with prophetic books (the New 
Testament has only one predominantly 
prophetic book, Revelation) 

Between the historical and prophetic books are 

• Poetic books (Old Testament) and 

• Letters or epistles (New Testament) 

The Old Testament Books 

1 . The Historical Books 

The Old Testament has 17 historical books, 
arranged in chronological order. The Jewish 
people called (and call) the first five historical 
books the Torah (Hebrew for “law,” since these 

books contain the laws God gave to Moses). These 
five books are also called the Pentateuch (Greek 
for “five books”). The history covered in these 
books can be divided into six periods (see also the 
next section, “What the Bible Is About” ). 

2. The Poetic Books 

Between the historical books and the prophetic 
books of the Old Testament are five poetic books 
that contain some of the most beautiful poetry ever 
written. Especially the book of Psalms, which 
expresses the full range of human emotions from 
depression to jubilant trust in God, has been a 
source of comfort and inspiration for Jews and 
Christians for three millennia. 

3. The Prophetic Books 

The Old Testament contains 17 prophetic books. 
The first five of these books are called the Major 
Prophets because they are much longer than the 
other 12, which are called the Minor Prophets. 
(Lamentations is a short book that is included with 
the Major Prophets because it was written by the 

prophet Jeremiah, who also wrote the book of 
Jeremiah, the second book of the Major Prophets.) 

The New Testament Books 

1 . The Historical Books 

Between the end of the Old Testament and the 
beginning of the New Testament is a period of 
about 400 years. We know quite a bit about those 
“silent years” from other books that are not part of 
the Old Testament or New Testament (see The 400 
Years Between The Testaments ). 

The New Testament contains five historical 
books: the four Gospels, which describe the life of 
Christ, and the book of Acts, which tells the story 
of the early church, mostly through the work of the 
apostle Paul. 

2. The Letters, or Epistles 

The New Testament contains 21 letters, or epistles. 
The first 13 of these were written by the apostle 
Paul; they are arranged by length, from the longest 
(Romans) to the shortest (Philemon). Others were 

written by the apostle John (three letters), Peter 
(two letters), and James and Jude (one letter each); 
there is uncertainty as to who wrote the letter to the 

All the letters were written during the early 
decades of the church. 

3. The Prophetic Book 

The New Testament has only one prophetic book: 
Revelation. (The Greek word for revelation is 
apokalupsis, meaning an unveiling or uncovering. 
For this reason, the book of Revelation is also 
called the Apocalypse.) 


Historical Books 









1 Samuel 

2 Samuel 

1 Kings 

2 Kings 

1 Chronicles 

2 Chronicles 



Poetic Books 


Song of Songs 

Prophetic Books 



















Historical Books 








1 Corinthians 

2 Corinthians 

1 Thessalonians 

2 Thessalonians 

1 Timothy 

2 Timothy 

1 Peter 

2 Peter 

1 John 

2 John 

3 John 

Prophetic Books 


What the Bible Is About 

1 In The Beginning 

Creation, Adam and Eve, Fall, Cain 
and Abel, Noah and the Flood, Babel 

The Story 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the 
earth.” The first two chapters of the Bible describe 
how God created all things. The last thing He 
created was mankind, whom God created “male 
and female ” — Adam and Eve. Creation was good 
and harmonious. 

But in the third chapter this harmony is destroyed. 

Adam and Eve are deceived by the serpent (Satan) 
and choose to disobey God. They do the one thing 
He had told them not to do: they eat from a 
forbidden tree because they want to be like God. It 
is a small act — with cosmic consequences. 

Their disobedience (“the Fall”) brings 
disharmony and death into the world and the 
universe. Humanity is now separated, not only 
from one another and from creation, but from God. 
All history, and each life, now ends in death. 

The Fall is followed by a number of disastrous 

• Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden 
of Eden. 

• Cain and Abel: The sons of Adam and Eve. 
Cain kills Abel. 

• Noah and the Flood : Things get so bad that 
God decides to destroy the human race in a 
flood. Only Noah and his family and 
representative pairs of the animals survive in 
the ark. 

• The Tower of Babel: The people of the 

world want to build a city with a “tower that 
reaches to the heavens.” Like Adam and Eve, 
they want to be like God. But God intervenes 
and confuses the language of the world. From 
there, the Lord scatters them over the face of 
the whole earth. Ever since, people have 
spoken different languages. 

The Story Behind the Story 

The first three chapters of Genesis set the 
stage for all that happens in the rest of the 
Bible. Adam and Eve’s sin separated 
humanity from God. As a result we also lost 
our God-given harmony within ourselves, 
with each other, and with the rest of creation. 
But God, who loves the human beings He 
created, promises that He will undo what 
Adam and Eve did in disobedience. He will 
restore harmony between humanity and 
Himself, between people, and in all of 
creation. God promises that a descendant of 
Adam and Eve will be the key — He will 
bring salvation. He will set things right 

between God and his creation. 

Throughout the rest of the Bible, this is the 
story behind the story: God is at work setting 
things right. (In the New Testament we see 
that He has already accomplished this 
through Jesus.) “Regular” history — the kind 
found in history books — may seem chaotic, 
but the story behind the story tells us that all 
of history is moving to the point where God’s 
plan of salvation and redemption for the 
universe will be complete, when, as the last 
book in the Bible says, 

The dwelling of God is with men, and he will 
live with them. They will be his people, and 
God himself will be with them and be their 
God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death or mourning or 
crying or pain, for the old order of things 
has passed away (Revelation 2 1:3-4). 

2 The Time of the Patriarchs 

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph 

The Story 

God tells Abraham to go from Ur of the 
Chaldeans to Canaan. There they have a son, 
Isaac, even though Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is well 
beyond child-bearing age. 

Isaac, his son Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons are 
known as the patriarchs of Israel, since the whole 
nation — the 12 tribes — descended from them. 
(“Israel” is the name God gave Jacob.) 

One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, ends up in Egypt, 
where he becomes second-in-command to the 
Pharaoh and saves the country from famine. 
Joseph’s whole family then comes down to Egypt, 
where they live for some 400 years. 

The Story Behind the Story 
With God’s choice of Abraham begins the 
preparation of a nation through which the 
promised Redeemer will come. God 
promises Abraham that he will have 
innumerable descendants, who will possess 
the land of Canaan (Palestine) and through 
whom God will bless the entire world. These 

promises are part of the covenant (solemn 
agreement) that God makes with Abraham, 
These promises are fulfilled slowly but surely 
— even though Abraham sees very little of 
this fulfillment himself 
Through Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph, 
God takes Abraham’s descendants to Egypt. 
There they end up suffering oppression and 
slavery. But their relative isolation also 
allows the nation to grow without the danger 
of being absorbed into the various Canaanite 
nations — which would undoubtedly have 
happened had they stayed in Canaan. 

3 The Exodus from Egy pt 

Moses, Aaron, Red Sea, Mount Sinai 

The Story 

After 400 years, the Israelites have become so 
numerous that the Pharaoh gets worried that they 
may take over the country. He puts them to slave 

labor on his building projects. 

Moses is an Israelite who was raised at the court 
by Pharaoh’s daughter. God calls him to deliver the 
Israelites from their slavery and to take them back 
to Canaan, the land God had promised to their 
forefather Abraham Aaron, Moses’ brother, goes 
with him to Pharaoh. 

Pharaoh refuses to let the people go. God 
encourages him to change his mind by sending 10 
horrible plagues. The last of the plagues allows the 
angel of death to kill all firstborn children, but God 
protects the Israelites by instructing them to put 
some lamb’s blood on their doorposts so the angel 
of death will pass over them. (This is the beginning 
of the Passover.) After this, Pharaoh agrees to let 
the people go. He later changes his mind and 
pursues the Israelites, but his entire army drowns 
in the Red Sea, after God creates a path and 
allows only the Israelites to cross. 

At Mount Sinai, God gives Israel His laws. 
Because they have no faith that God will help them 
conquer the land, the Israelites end up spending 40 
years in the wilderness. 

The Story Behind the Story 

God prepares Moses to lead the Israelites out 
of Egypt by using the Egyptian court to give 
Moses the education he would need for the 
enormous task ahead. 

As God had done with Abraham, He now 
makes a covenant with the people of Israel 
at Mount Sinai . As part of this covenant God 
gives this group of slaves who had never 
learned to function as a nation a body of laws 
to govern their daily lives once they settle in 
the Promised Land. 

Part of this covenant is the warning that 
disobedience will bring disaster, while 
obedience to the covenant by keeping God’s 
laws will bring blessing. Their survival and 
success depend entirely on whether or not 
they obey God. They learn the truth of this the 
hard way when their disobedience and lack of 
faith in the wilderness lead to a 40-year 
period of wandering before they finally are 
allowed to enter the Promised Land. 

4 The Conquest and Settlement 
of Canaan 

Joshua, the Judges (Deborah, Gideon, 

The Story 

Moses dies and Joshua takes over. He leads the 
Israelites into the Promised Land across the Jordan 
near Jericho. They conquer part of the land, and 
each of the 12 tribes is given a piece of it. 

But there is no central authority, and for several 
centuries the various tribes disobey and leave 
God. God then allows a foreign army to punish 
them, but when they cry out to God, He sends them 
a leader (called a Judge ) to defeat the enemy. But 
soon the whole cycle starts over again. Among the 
Judges are Gideon and Samson. 

The Story Behind the Story 

God’s promise that Abraham’s descendants 

will possess the land now begins to be 

fulfilled. At Ai they again receive a 
demonstration of the abject failure that is the 
result of ignoring God and His instructions. 

As the land is conquered and settled, the 
seeds for future problems are sown. The 
Israelites fail to take all of the land, as God 
had commanded, and the remaining 
Canaanites will be a constant source of 
seduction away from God. This becomes very 
clear in the period of the Judges, when the 
various tribes are again and again in danger 
of completely forgetting the God who brought 
them out of Egypt. 

5 The Monarchy and the Divided 

Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, two 
kingdoms: Israel and Judah 

The Story 

Finally the Israelites ask for a king. Samuel , the 
last Judge, first makes Saul king. Saul starts out 
well, but ends up committing suicide in battle. 

Then David becomes king and unites all the tribes 
into the kingdom of Israel, with Jerusalem as its 
capital. (This is around 1000 B.c.) 

David’s son Solomon succeeds him. He builds the 
temple in Jerusalem and is spectacularly wealthy. 
But after Solomon’s death, the northern 10 tribes 
secede and establish their own kingdom. This 
northern kingdom is now called “Israel”; the 
southern kingdom (with only two tribes, Judah 
and Benjamin) is called “Judah.” Jerusalem and 
the temple are in Judah. 

The northern kingdom has a series of bad kings. It 
is finally destroyed in 722 B.c, by the Assyrians. 
The people are taken away and disappear forever 
in history. 

The southern kingdom has some good kings and 
some bad kings. It is finally captured by the 
Babylonians, who destroy Jerusalem and the 
temple in 586 b.c. The people are taken to 


The Story Behind the Story 

The worship of God should have united the 
12 tribes. Instead, the Israelites decide that 
they want a king so that they, too, can become 
a nation like the others around them. David 
establishes the kingdom that unites all the 
tribes. God now makes a covenant with 
David that from his dynasty will come the 
Great King who will personify God’s ideal 
king. This King will rule forever with justice 
and mercy. This covenant with David is the 
next step in the unfolding of God’s plan. 

Sadly, the kingdom ends in failure. First it is 
divided into two smaller kingdoms. The 
northern kingdom rejected God from the very 
beginning and was overrun, and its people 
were deported after a couple of centuries. 
The southern kingdom — in spite of the fact 
that Jerusalem and the temple of God were 
there, and in spite of a number of God-fearing 
kings — also ended up rejecting God, which 
led to their deportation by the Babylonians. 

But the family lineage of David continued, 
and God would keep the promise He made to 

6 The Babylonian Exile and the 
Return from Exile 

Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther 

The Story 

While the Jews (the people from Judah) are in 
Babylonia, the Babylonians are defeated by the 
Persians. The Persians allow the Jews to return to 
Jerusalem. The temple and the walls are rebuilt 
under Ezra and Nehemiah. (The return takes place 
in stages over a period of about a century.) 

The story of Esther is a vignette from this period; 
Esther’s courage may have influenced the Persian 
king to support the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. 
[The five books of poetry and wisdom (Job 
through Song of Songs) and the 17 books of the 

prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) were written 
largely during the periods of the kingdom and of 
the exile and return (periods 5 and 6).] 

The Story Behind the Story 
The Babylonian exile brought profound 
changes in the way the Jewish people saw 
themselves and their relationship with God. 
No longer could they blithely claim that God 
would never allow His temple to be 
destroyed or His people to be conquered by 
other nations. Much soul-searching took 
place: Had God deserted His people? Had 
God canceled His covenant with Abraham, 
with His people, and with David because they 
had not fulfilled their obligations under the 

Yet the prophets had not only predicted the 
judgment of God on His people and the fall of 
Jerusalem — they had also said that, in spite of 
appearances, God had not abandoned His 
people. The terrible experience of the Exile 
brought about a focus on the promise that God 
would yet accomplish the ultimate fulfillment 

of all His promises by sending the Messiah. 

The 400 Years Between the 


The Story 

Between the end of the Old Testament and the 
beginning of the New Testament there is a span of 
about 400 years. During this time many changes 
take place. 

• The Romans rather than the Persians are now 
the great world power. 

• In the Babylonian exile, the synagogue 
becomes very important as the place where 
people come together for worship and the 
study of the Hebrew Bible (our Old 

• For about 100 of the 400 years between the 
testaments, the Jews are independent again 
under the Maccabees. 

• Two groups that begin during this 400-year 

period are the Sadducees and the Pharisees . 
The teachings of Jesus are closest to those of 
the Pharisees, but the Pharisees end up being 
His staunchest opponents. 

The group that is in charge of everyday 
matters in Palestine, including religious 
matters, is the Sanhedrin, which consists of 
Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the Law, 
and the high priest. 

The central section of Palestine is Samaria. 
The Samaritans are partially related to the 
Jews and worship God, but on Mount Gerizim 
rather than in Jerusalem. The Jews avoid them 
at all costs. 

The Story Behind the Story 

After the Babylonian exile, the Jews return to 
Jerusalem. Through four centuries of conflict, 
God prepares the world around Israel for the 
coming of the promised Redeemer. The Greek 
empires give the then-known world a common 
language, Greek, while later the Roman 
Empire provides a stable government and 

worldwide peace (the Pax Romana ) as well 
as a remarkable road system. All of this 
allows the rapid spread of the Good News of 
Jesus — of God come to earth to reconcile the 
world with Himself. 

7 The Life of Jesus 

Jesus, John the Baptist, Crucifixion, 

The Story 

The Old Testament, from Abraham to Malachi, 
covers about 2000 years of history — the New 
Testament only about 70 (and the first 25-30 of 
those only very briefly). 

The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 
John) all tell the story of Jesus’ life, but each with 
a somewhat different emphasis. 

Jesus’ virgin birth to Mary (ca. 4 B.c. — see 
sidebar How Could Jesus Have Been Born Five or 
Six Years “Before Christ”? in the chapter on The 
Life of Jesus) is told mostly in Luke. Only one 
story is recorded about His youth — His visit to the 
temple in Jerusalem when He was 12. We also 
know that He took up the trade of His earthly 
father, Joseph; He became a carpenter. 

Then, when Jesus is about 30, a prophet appears in 
the wilderness near the Jordan River, John the 
Baptist, who tells the people to repent and to show 
their repentance by being baptized. He also 
announces that someone greater than he will come 
who will “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with 
fire.” Jesus insists on also being baptized by John. 
After this, Jesus begins His own ministry of 
preaching that the kingdom of God is near. He 
heals many people and preaches in the synagogues. 
And He claims to be the fulfillment of what the 
prophets, including John the Baptist, had promised 
for centuries: the “anointed one” of God (. Messiah 
in Hebrew, Christ in Greek), who would establish 
God’s kingdom on earth. 

The problem is that the leaders of the people (the 
Pharisees, Sadducees, and the teachers of the Law) 
see the miracles Jesus performs but cannot believe 
that Jesus really is who He claims He is: the Son 
of God. They think Jesus’ claim is blasphemy, and 
therefore, they say, He must be able to do miracles 
because He is in league with the devil. But many 
people believe in Jesus. 

Jesus chooses 12 disciples (who will later be 
called apostles) to travel with Him and to be taught 
by Him. Peter (also called Simon Peter) is the 
leader among the Twelve. Peter, John, and James, 
John’s brother, form the inner circle among the 

Jesus keeps teaching and doing miracles, but as it 
becomes clear that He is not going to establish 
God’s kingdom by throwing the Romans out of the 
country, many people quit following Him. They do 
not understand (and even the disciples don’t 
understand) that Jesus’ mission is not political but 
to set things right between God and humanity — that 
God’s kingdom must first be established in the 
hearts of those who follow Jesus. 

In the end, the leaders decide to kill Jesus, but they 
want to do it in a way that will not upset the people 
and that also gives the appearance of being legal. 
(The events of the last week of Jesus’ life are 
described in detail in all four Gospels.) One of the 
disciples, Judas, betrays Jesus to the leaders. 
After trying in vain to find witnesses who can 
provide grounds for a death sentence, the leaders 
finally condemn Jesus to death because He claims 
to be God’s Son — which He had been saying all 
along. He is then crucified by the Romans. 

But after three days the grave is empty — Jesus has 
risen from the dead! He appears to His disciples 
for a period of 40 days and then ascends to heaven. 
The Story Behind the Story 
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to 
Abraham and David. His death and 
resurrection will reunite God with His 
people. He is the one through whom the 
whole world will be blessed. He is the King 
from David’s house. But His kingdom is not 
based on external, worldly power. Rather, it 
is based on justice, mercy, humility, and the 

irresistible power of love. Jesus shows what 
God is like. He does not force submission, 
but asks for a response freely given: faith and 
trust in Him. 

But the people of Israel cannot accept this 
radical revision of their expectations — they 
prefer a king who would restore Israel to 
political power. Jesus is crucified on the 
charge of blasphemy. But His death is a 
victory, the victory of love over the 
destructive power of sin. It is a victory 
because God raises Jesus from the dead. His 
resurrection shows that death is no longer the 
end, but rather a new beginning. Because of 
the Resurrection, we know that the truth we 
seek, and the healing of our guilt, our 
loneliness, and our isolation from God and 
one another, are found in Jesus. 

Jesus voluntarily gave up His life. His shed 
blood paid the price for our sins and thus 
opened the way for a new covenant — not 
only with Abraham, Israel, or David, but with 
all people everywhere who want to be God’s 

people. This new covenant does not require 
the keeping of laws and is not based on 
works, but is based on God’s grace alone. 
Eternal salvation is freely given by Him to 
those who believe and have accepted Jesus as 
their Lord and Savior. God made His plan of 
redemption very simple and available to 

This was the ultimate purpose behind the 
earlier covenants — to establish a new 
covenant through the blood of Jesus. 

8 The Early Church 

Pentecost, Peter, Paul 

The Story 

The story of the early church begins soon after the 
Ascension, with the coming of the Holy Spirit on 
Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost. This 
gives them courage to preach and teach about Jesus 
even though the Jewish leaders are opposed to 

them and throw some of them into jail. 

One of the fiercest opponents of the followers of 
Jesus is Saul of Tarsus. He belongs to the party of 
the Pharisees and genuinely believes that he is 
doing God’s work when he tries to wipe out the 

Then, on the road to Damascus, he meets the 
resurrected Jesus and turns from a fierce opponent 
to an equally fierce follower of Jesus. He is 
henceforth known by his Roman name, Paul, and 
most of Acts is about Paul’s travels around the 
eastern part of the Roman Empire (known as his 
three “ missionary journeys ”) and his trip to 
Rome, where he is imprisoned. 

A problem for the early church is getting used to 
the idea that the Gospel of Jesus is not just for the 
Jews but for all people. The apostle Peter has to 
be shown by God that it is okay to baptize non- 
Jews — even Romans (Acts 10). ft takes a special 
meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem to decide that 
non-Jewish Christians do not have to become Jews 
(by physical circumcision) before they become 
Christians (Acts 15). The door to God’s kingdom 

is wide open — God is an equal-opportunity God! 
The rest of the New Testament is mostly taken up 
with letters written by Paul (the first 13, Romans 
through Philemon) and others (Hebrews through 

The final book is Revelation, which is a book of 
God’s final judgment on nonbelievers and the 
fulfillment of God’s promise to the church. In spite 
of outward appearances and Satan’s threats, God 
will win in the end, and His church — those who 
trust Him — will be with Him forever! 

The Story Behind the Story 
Jesus came first for the descendants of 
Abraham, the Israelites. But the Gospel of 
Jesus is for the whole world — it is the 
blessing promised 3000 years ago to 
Abraham We see in the early church how 
God makes sure that the Good News of Jesus 
will be spread all over the world. God’s 
people are no longer merely an ethnic or 
political group. God’s people are all those 
who, regardless of race, gender, or talents, 
respond in faith to God’s proclamation that 

we are reconciled to Him through Jesus. 

The following pages give a quick overview of 
where each period of biblical history is found in 
the Bible. 

(D In the Beginning 

Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. Noah and the Flood. Babel 
® The Time of the Patriarchs 
Abraham, Isaac. Jacob, Joseph 
(3) The Exodus from Egypt 

Moses. Aaron, Red Sea. Mount Sinai 
® The Conquest and Settlement of Canaan 
Joshua, the Judges (Deborah. Gideon, Samson) 

D The Monarchy and the Divided Kingdom 

Samuel. Saul. David. Solomon, two Kingdoms: Israel and Judah 
® The Babylonian Exile and the Return from Exile 
Ezra. Nehemiah, Esther 

Books Oral were wntren during Ore lost two periods above (Ktngdom, Exrfe 
and Return): 

Poetry and Proverbs— Job. Psolbis. Proverbs 
The Prophets— fsoiob. Jeremiah. Donret Jonah 


® The Life of Jesus 

Jesus. John the Baptist. Crucifixion. Resurrection 
® The Early Church 
Pentecost. Peter, Paul 

Books that were written during the lost penod above (the Ear+y Church) 
The Letters — Paul Peter, John, Jude, James 
The Prophecy (Revelation) 


Historical Books 

Poetic Books 

Prophetic Books 

Genesis 1- 1 1 

Genesis 12- SO 

< 3 > 








1 Samuel 

2 Samuel 

1 Kings 

2 Kings 

1 Chronicles 

2 Chronicles 

Song of Songs 

Isaiah Hosea 

Jer etniah Joel 

Lamentations Amos 
Ezekiel Obadiah 

Daniel Jonah 





Zeclur iah 


Historical Books 


Prophetic Books 










The Main Thought of Each 
Bible Book 

(Some of the books have a principal thought; 
others are about a number of things.) 

Genesis Founding of the Hebrew Nation 
Exodus The Covenant with the Hebrew Nation 
Leviticus Laws of the Hebrew Nation 
Numbers Journey to the Promised Land 
Deuteronomy Laws of the Hebrew Nation 
Joshua The Conquest of Canaan 
Judges First 300 Years in the Land 
Ruth Beginning of the Messianic Family of 

1 Samuel Organization of the Kingdom 

2 Samuel Reign of David 

1 Kings Division of the Kingdom 

2 Kings History of the Divided Kingdom 

1 Chronicles Reign of David 

2 Chronicles History of the Southern Kingdom 
Ezra Return from Captivity 

Nehemiah Rebuilding Jerusalem 

Esther Escape of Israel from Extermination 

Job Problem of Suffering 

Psalms National Hymnbook of Israel 

Proverbs Wisdom of Solomon 

Ecclesiastes Vanity of Earthly Life 

Song of Songs Glorification of Wedded Love 

Isaiah The Messianic Prophet 

Jeremiah A Last Effort to Save Jerusalem 

Lamentations A Dirge over the Desolation of 


Ezekiel “They Shall Know That I Am God” 

Daniel The Prophet at Babylon 

Hosea Apostasy of Israel 

Joel Prediction of the Holy Spirit Age 

Amos Ultimate Universal Rule of David 

Obadiah Destruction of Edom 

Jonah An Errand of Mercy to Nineveh 

Micah Bethlehem to Be Birthplace of the 


Nahum Destruction of Nineveh 
Habakkuk “The Just Shall Live by Faith” 
Zephaniah Corning of a “Pure Language” 

Haggai Rebuilding the Temple 

Zechariah Rebuilding the Temple 

Malachi Final Message to a Disobedient People 

Matthew Jesus the Messiah 

Mark Jesus the Wonderful 

Luke Jesus the Son of Man 

John Jesus the Son of God 

Acts Formation of the Church 

Romans Nature of Christ’s Work 

1 Corinthians Various Church Disorders 

2 Corinthians Paul’s Vindication of His 

Galatians By Grace, Not by Law 
Ephesians Unity of the Church 
Philippians A Missionary Epistle 
Colossians Deity of Jesus 

1 Thessalonians The Lord’s Second Coming 

2 Thessalonians The Lord’s Second Coming 

1 Timothy The Care of the Church in Ephesus 

2 Timothy Paul’s Final Word 

Titus The Churches of Crete 
Philemon Conversion of a Runaway Slave 
Hebrews Christ the Mediator of a New Covenant 
James Good Works 

1 Peter To a Persecuted Church 

2 Peter Prediction of Apostasy 

1 John Love 

2 John Caution Against False Teachers 

3 John Rejection of John’s Helpers 
Jude Imminent Apostasy 
Revelation Ultimate Triumph of Christ 

The Setting of the Bible 

1. Why the Setting Is Important 

The Bible is full of people, places, and events — it 
tells of God’s concrete dealings with humanity and 
humanity’s relationship with God in the day-to-day 
situations and problems of real life. 

While an understanding of the message of the 
Bible — the Gospel of God’s eternal love for His 
people — does not depend on our knowledge of the 
historical, geographical, and cultural background 
or setting of the Bible, such knowledge will often 
add a concrete dimension to our reading of the 
Scriptures that can help put the biblical message in 
sharper focus. 

For example, in Genesis 23, Abraham’s wife 
Sarah has died, and Abraham needs a place to bury 

her. God had promised that the land of Canaan 
would belong to Abraham and his descendants, but 
at this point he doesn’t own even a square inch of 
it; he is still a nomad. Abraham approaches Ephron 
the Hittite, who owns the cave in which he wants 
to bury Sarah. The story reflects an established 
pattern of negotiating. Ephron seems to be very 
generous, but in reality he ends up selling the cave 
to Abraham for an exorbitant price. This was the 
only part of Canaan Abraham owned when he died, 
and he paid many times what this little piece of it 
was worth — yet Abraham continued to have faith 
in God’s promise that one day his descendants 
would own all of the land (see Hebrews 11:8-10). 

Similarly, geography often plays a role in the 
Bible. When God called Abraham to go from Ur of 
the Chaldeans to Canaan, almost due west of Ur, 
Abraham ended up in Haran, almost as far north of 
Canaan as Ur was east of it (Genesis 12). The 
problem was not that Abraham had a poor sense of 
direction. Rather, it was impossible for Abraham 
to travel due west to Canaan, since between Ur and 
Canaan there was only desert. Abraham had to 

follow the River Euphrates, the one reliable source 
of water on a journey of some 600 miles as the 
crow flies, before heading south to Canaan. (See 
below for more on roads and travel during biblical 

2. The Ancient Near East 

The setting of the Bible is what is today called the 
Middle East: modern Egypt, Turkey, Israel, 
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and 
Iran. This same region is referred to as the Ancient 
Near East when we look at its history. 

It is an area smaller than the United States, 
much of it desert. The earliest great civilizations 
prospered around the rivers in this region — the 
Egyptian Empire along the Nile River, the 
Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian 
Empires around the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, in 
what is now Iraq. 

We sometimes have the mistaken notion that 
Abraham, with whom the story of God’s people 
begins, lived in rather primitive times. Nothing 

could be further from the truth — unless we assume 
that technology and urban sprawl are the hallmark 
of civilization. When God called Abraham (ca. 
2000 B.c.), 

• Egypt had already had a flourishing 
civilization for more than a millennium; the 
pyramids had been standing for almost five 

• On the island of Crete, the great Minoan 
civilization had already prospered for more 
than five centuries. 

• The region around the Euphrates and Tigris 
Rivers (also called Mesopotamia = “Between 
the Rivers”) was the scene of the great 
Sumerian civilization. Ur of the Chaldeans, 
where Abraham came from, was a thriving 
city on the Euphrates River. 

• Great civilizations also flourished farther 
east, in the Indus Valley and in China. 

It was not until after the end of the Old 
Testament (ca. 400 b.c.) that the center of power 

moved westward, away from the Ancient Near 
East, first to Greece and then to Rome. 

3. The World Powers of Biblical 

The maps: Empires show the six great empires of 
biblical times. (The exact boundaries fluctuated, 
and some of the boundaries were never clearly 

As the six maps show, the first three empires 
were east and southeast of the Mediterranean Sea; 
the last three show a gradual shift toward the west, 
until with the Roman Empire the focus of power 
shifted from northern Africa and the Near East to 

• Egyptian Empire. Became the home of Israel 
when the Patriarchs moved to Egypt at the end 
of Genesis; the Israelites left Egypt in the 
Exodus, 400 years later. 

• Assyrian Empire. Destroyed the northern 

kingdom, Israel, in 722 B.c. and deported its 
people. Its capital was Nineveh (which was 
spared after Jonah preached there). 
Babylonian Empire. Destroyed Jerusalem 
and the southern kingdom, Judah, in 586 B.c. 
and deported its people to Babylonia. Its 
capital was Babylon (where the prophet 
Daniel rose to prominence). 

Persian Empire. Destroyed the Babylonian 
Empire in 539 B.c. Its capitals were 
Persepolis and Susa (the latter providing the 
setting for the book of Esther). The first 
Persian ruler, Darius, allowed the Jews to go 
back to Jerusalem 

Greek Empire. Founded by Alexander the 
Great around 330 B.c. After Alexander’s 
death, the empire was divided into four 
empires (see The 400 Years Between The 
Testaments ! . The legacy of the Greek Empire 
was not political but cultural: Hellenism (see 
Religious Changes in the chapter on The 400 
Years Between the Testaments). 

Roman Empire. The empire that was in its 

glory days during the time of Christ and the 
early church (see The Early Church: Acts- 
Jude : for the Roman Empire after the time of 
Christ, see The First Centuries: From 

Pentecost to a.d. 313 in the chapter A Brief 
History of the Western Church). 

4. Roads and Travel in Biblical 

Our understanding of both the Old and the New 
Testament accounts can be enhanced by 
understanding the influence that roads and weather 
played in the course of biblical events. 

In ancient times, the location of roads was 
determined to a large extent by the natural features 
of the landscape. Most roads through the rugged 
hill country of Judah generally followed the 
mountain ridges, since a more direct route would 
mean climbing in and out of many valleys and 

Water — either too much or too little — was also 

a problem. Roads in valleys and low-lying areas 
could flood during the rainy season or become too 
muddy for use. Travel during the dry summer 
season was much easier than traveling on muddy, 
rain-soaked roads in the winter months. The spring 
and summer seasons were “the time when kings go 
off to war” (2 Samuel 11:1) because the roads 
were dry and the newly harvested grain was 
available to feed their troops. 

Too little water, on the other hand, was an even 
more serious problem When Abraham traveled 
from Ur to Canaan (see map: Abraham’s Journey 
from Ur to Shechem ). he could not simply go west, 
which would have saved him hundreds of miles, 
since there were no sources of water in the 
Arabian Desert. Instead, he had to follow one of 
the major international trade routes that connected 
Mesopotamia with Egypt, Turkey, and Arabia. 
From Ur, these routes followed the great rivers, the 
Euphrates and the Tigris, and both went through 
Haran, almost 400 miles to the north of Canaan. 

The Major International Routes 

The “major international routes” were not unlike 
the transcontinental trails in the early American 
West, such as the Oregon Trail. Basic “road- 
building” operations included the removal of 
stones from the path, the clearing of trees and 
bushes, the maintaining of shallow fords in the 
river beds, and possibly the construction of trails 
along steep slopes. But these major routes 
generally followed relatively easy terrain and 
were never far from water sources. 

These roads had to be recleared and releveled 
periodically, especially when an important 
personage such as a king was to travel on them. 
Thus it is not just poetic language, but rather a 
statement about actual road maintenance when we 
read, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight 
paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every 
mountain and hill made low” (Luke 3:5) — that is, 
ruts or eroded low spots must be filled in, and 
bumps must be removed. 

Living near an international highway brought 
economic benefits. These roads served as 
thoroughfares for itinerant tradesmen and 

merchants, for the conveyance of governmental and 
commercial messages, and for the transportation of 
scarce supplies, such as copper, iron, tin, gold, 
silver, incense, dyes, and pottery. (Bulkier items 
such as timber and stones were usually shipped on 
boats and rafts.) Those who controlled the roads — 
whether brigands or a more permanent central 
government — could derive considerable income 
from the traffic on these highways. The central 
government could collect tolls from passing 
caravans, sell food and lodging, and offer the 
services of military escorts that could be hired by 
the caravans to ensure their safe passage through 
“dangerous” territory. 

On the other hand, these same roads were also 
used for military expeditions, which brought no 
economic benefit but only enormous risk in the 
case of hostile armies. 

Those living along the international routes 
were also exposed to new intellectual, cultural, 
linguistic, and religious influences, and this 
inevitably led to a degree of assimilation. For 
example, the ease of travel in and out of Samaria 

helps to explain the openness of that area to non- 
Israelite religious and cultural influences. 

The remoteness of the Hill Country of Judah 
and the relatively difficult access to Jerusalem 
made the southern kingdom less susceptible to 
foreign influences. This difference helps explain 
why the deportation of the northern kingdom 
happened some 130 years earlier than the 
deportation of the southern kingdom, Judah (see 
The Monarchy: David. Solomon and the Divided 
Kingdom: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles ). 

Roads in Canaan 

By the time Abraham arrived in the land of Canaan 
(ca. 2000 B.c.), the lines of communication within 
the country were already well established. Two 
international highways ran through the country, one 
along the coast (sometimes referred to as “the Way 
of the Sea”), the other east of the Jordan River (the 
Transjordanian highway). The western 
international highway probably played a role in the 
story of Joseph, who found his brothers near 
Dothan, was thrown into a cistern, and then was 
sold to Midianite merchants, who took him to 
Egypt (Genesis 37:12-28). Dothan was less than 
15 miles from the western highway, and the cistern 
may have been even closer. 

The map: Roads and Routes in Canaan shows 
many of the regional and local routes in Canaan. 
One of these is especially important for biblical 
studies: the interregional route that ran from 
Beersheba in the south to Shechem in the north — 
via Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gibeah, 
Ramah, Bethel/ Ai, and Shiloh. This route appears 

again and again in the biblical text. Some people 
call it “the Route of the Patriarchs” because 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob traveled its length, 
while others refer to it as “the Ridge Route,” for in 
many places it runs along the ridge of the 
watershed of the Judean and Ephraim mountains. 
Even when it is not specifically mentioned, it often 
furnishes the backdrop for many events recorded in 
the Bible. 

These streets in Pompey are exactly as they were in A.D. 79, 
when an eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried them under 
volcanic ash. These urban streets had sidewalks and 
pedestrian crossings: the large stones in the road are stepping 
stones, since the roads were also designed to carry off 

rainwater. The ruts show that the width of Roman carts had to 
be standardized to be able to pass between the stones. 

Roman Roads 

It was not until shortly before New Testament 
times that the Romans developed advanced road- 
building techniques, which included the 
preparation of the roadbed by leveling the ground 
and cutting rocks, the use of curbing to mark the 
edge of the roads, attention to drainage, and the 
laying of paving stones. The Roman Empire 
developed a system of roads that ultimately would 
stretch from Scotland to the Euphrates — some 
53,000 miles in all. (The U.S. Interstate Highway 
System, by way of comparison, consists of 
approximately 30,000 miles of road.) It is 
probable that the construction of a rather well- 
developed road system had already begun in Syria 
and Judah in New Testament times. 


Besides walking, early modes of transportation 
included donkeys, solid-wheeled carts, and 

chariots. Camels eventually began to be used to 
carry heavy loads, especially in caravans. Horses 
were used in the second and first millennia B.c. to 
draw chariots and to serve in cavalry units; during 
the Persian period (538-332 b.c.) and later, their 
use for everyday travel became more common. In 
New Testament times all these means of 
transportation were used, and the improvement of 
the road system increased the use of carts and 

The Israelites never were a seafaring nation. 
The sea often is used as a symbolic representation 
of chaos and of the nations in opposition to God. 
Thus Jonah’s running away from God to the sea is 
more than just going west instead of east — it 
involves symbolically moving toward all that is in 
opposition to God. Yet God controls the sea and its 
inhabitants. And in Revelation 21:1, the statement 
“the sea is no more” may also mean that at last the 
rebellious nations no longer can trouble God’s 

5. The Promised Land: Israel 

Much of biblical history took place in and around 
the land of Israel. Understanding the geography of 
this area provides valuable insight as one studies 
the biblical events that took place here. Israel is a 
country that is about the size of the state of New 
Jersey, with a total of 8,019 square miles of land. 

The Four Major Zones 

The city of Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel 
and the center stage of biblical history, lies 
halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the 
Arabian or Eastern Desert. Squeezed between 
the sea and the desert — which are only 70 miles 
apart at the latitude of Jerusalem — are four 
“zones” that run north-south (see map: The Holy 
Land — Natural Regions ): 

1. The coastal plain, which at the latitude of 
Jerusalem is less than 12 miles wide. 

2. The central mountain range, on which 
Jerusalem is situated at an elevation of 
approximately 2,500 feet, is about 36 miles 


3. The Rift Valley, through which the Jordan 
River runs. It is part of the Rift Valley system 
that extends for 3,700 miles from Africa to 
southern Turkey. 

4. The Transjordanian mountains, which rise 
steeply on the eastern side of the Rift Valley 
and then slope gradually toward the Arabian 

The Arabian or Eastern Desert stretches 
eastward some 450 miles, from the Transjordanian 
mountains to the Euphrates River. 

The Seasons 

In biblical times, Israel was primarily an agrarian 
country. It is sometimes difficult for people living 
in urban areas to realize how utterly dependent on 
the weather the Israelites were — not just the 
farmers, but the nation as a whole. When crops 
failed, famine followed. In desperation, Jacob sent 
his sons to Egypt for grain (see Genesis 42:1-3). 
And Elijah’s prayer that it would not rain (1 Kings 

17:1; 18:41-46; 5:17-18) was more than a request 
for a few unpleasantly dry summers — it potentially 
meant famine and disaster. 

The average amount of rainfall varies 
considerably in different parts of the country 
(Amos 4:6-8). In some years, parts of the country 
can go without rain for four or five consecutive 
weeks during the months of January and February, 
usually the rainiest months of the year. In those 
regions where the total annual average is only 12 
to 16 inches, the growth of grain crops is by no 
means assured, for a variation of only 4 to 6 inches 
can spell disaster. In areas where average rainfall 
is high, farmers can sow and “reap a hundredfold” 
(Genesis 26: 12) in “normal” years, but even there 
a series of drought years can be devastating and, in 
the past, could drive people from the land (Genesis 

The Israelites knew that it was Yahweh, the 
Lord, who had His eyes on the land continually, 
from the beginning of the year to its end, and that 
their obedience to His commandments would bring 
blessing, while disobedience would bring drought 
and disaster (Deuteronomy 11:8-17). But given the 
uncertainties about the amount and distribution of 
the rainfall, it is no wonder that some Israelites 
were drawn to participate in the worship of Baal, 
the Canaanite storm god, who was believed to 
bring fertility to the land. 

Israel’s year is divided into two main seasons: 
the rainy season (mid-October through April) and 
the dry season (mid- June through mid-September), 
separated by transitional months. 

The Dry Season — Summer (Mid-June to Mid- 

In contrast to the ever-changing weather 
conditions in many parts of North America, 
conditions in Israel during the summer months are 
relatively stable. Warm days and cooler nights are 

the rule, and it almost never rains. In Jerusalem, 
for example, the average August daytime high 
temperature is 86° F (30° C), the nighttime average 
low is 64° F (18° C). 

Summer days are relatively cloudless; in fact, 
Israel is one of the sunniest countries in the world. 
On a typical summer day, temperatures begin to 
climb immediately after sunrise. Within a short 
time a cooling sea breeze begins to blow in from 
the west. After passing through the coastal plain, it 
reaches Jerusalem in the mountains at about noon, 
and its cooling effect prevents the temperature 
from rising significantly during the afternoon hours. 
But the breeze usually does not reach Transjordan 
until mid-to-late afternoon, so temperatures there 
continue to climb through most of the day. 

The summer months see grapes, figs, 
pomegranates, olives, melons, and other crops 
ripening. The summer dew and deep root systems 
bring needed moisture to these crops. Most of the 
fruits are harvested in August and September. 
During the summer, shepherds move their flocks of 
sheep and goats westward, allowing them to feed 

on the stubble of the wheat and barley fields that 
were harvested in the spring. Because the soil is 
dry during the summer months, travel is fairly easy. 
In biblical times, caravans and armies moved 
easily through most parts of the country, the armies 
helping themselves to plentiful supplies of grain at 
the expense of the local population. 

The First Transitional Season — (Mid- 
September to Mid-October) 

The first transitional season, from mid- 
September to mid-October, marks the end of the 
stable, dry, summer conditions. It is the time of the 
fruit harvest, and farmers begin to look anxiously 
for the onset of the rainy season. In the fall, travel 
on the Mediterranean becomes dangerous (Acts 
27:9) and remains so throughout the winter months. 

The Rainy Season — Winter (Mid-October to 

The rainy season, from mid-October through 
April, is characterized by occasional rain storms 
that roll in off the Mediterranean Sea, normally 

bringing three days of rain followed by several 
days of dry weather (although deviations from this 
norm are frequent). During January the mean daily 
temperature in Jerusalem is 50° F (10° C). 
Jerusalem receives snow only once or twice each 
year, but it rarely remains on the ground more than 
a day. 

However, cold temperatures, combined with 
wind and rain, can make life uncomfortable in the 
hilly regions — a discomfort the people gladly bear 
because of the life-giving power of the rains. 
During a typical year a farmer plows his field and 
plants his grain crops after the “autumn rains” of 
October through December have softened the hard, 
sun-baked soil. The grain crops grow from 
December through February, when 75 percent of 
the rain falls, and continue to ripen during March 
and April as the rains begin to taper off. These 
“spring rains” are important for producing bumper 

Rain is so important that Hebrew has several 
words for it, each referring to a different part of 
the rainy season. Deuteronomy 11:14 reads, “Then 

I will send rain [Heb. matar; Dec.-Feb.] on your 
land in its season, both autumn [Heb. yoreh; Oct.- 
Dee.] and spring rains [Heb. malqosh; March- 
April], so that you may gather in your grain, new 
wine and oil” (see also Jeremiah 5:24; Hosea 6:3). 

The Second Transitional Season — (May to Mid- 

The second transitional season lasts from early 
May through mid-June. The temperatures gradually 
rise, and the season is punctuated by a series of 
hot, dry, dusty days during which the winds blow 
in from the eastern and southern deserts. On these 
days, which are called by the names of the winds 
hamsin, sirocco, or sharav, the temperature often 
rises 25° F (14° C) above normal, and the relative 
humidity can drop by as much as 40 percent. The 
hamsin wind conditions can be very debilitating to 
both humans and beasts, and they completely dry 
up the beautiful flowers and grasses that covered 
the landscape during the winter months (Isaiah 
40:7-8). The positive effect of these winds, 
however, is that the hot, dry weather aids the 

ripening of the grains by “setting” them before the 
harvest. It is during this season that first the barley 
and then the wheat harvest takes place. 

6. The Holy City: Jerusalem 

Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts and 
thoughts of Jews, Christians, and Moslems. It is 
mentioned some 800 times in the Bible, from 
Genesis 14:18 (“Salem”) to Revelation 21:10 (the 
New Jerusalem). Although today Jerusalem boasts 
a population of nearly half a million people, its 
origins were humble. 


The importance of Jerusalem is a bit surprising, 
given its location. It is not near one of the two 
major international highways (see map: Roads and 
Routes in Canaan ), and the only road that passed 
by it was the north-south Ridge Route, and even 
that ran about a half mile west of the ancient core 
of the city. 

Jerusalem lies in the Hill Country of Judea, at 

an elevation of 2,500 feet, which gave it the benefit 
of many natural defenses. The Dead Sea, the Rift 
Valley cliffs, the Wilderness of Judea, and the 
rugged hill country provided protection on the east, 
west, and south. It was somewhat easier to 
approach the city from the north or south, along the 
Ridge Route, but access to the Ridge Route from 
either the coast or the Rift Valley was difficult. 
Because of the easier approaches from the north 
and the northwest, invading armies have often 
assaulted Jerusalem from a northerly direction. 

Thus, besides being removed from the main 
routes of commerce (and of military expeditions), 
Jerusalem enjoyed the security of its natural 
defenses. If Jerusalem was not a natural center of 
commerce because of its location, neither was it 
situated in the heart of an extraordinarily rich 
agricultural region. In fact, Jerusalem was perched 
right on the boundary between the desert and “the 
sown” (areas suitable for agriculture). Jerusalem 
itself receives ample supplies of winter rain 
(approximately 25 inches per year), as do the hills 
to the west, so that they are able to produce a 

variety of crops, but just over the Mount of Olives, 
to the east of Jerusalem, lies the barren Judean 

Difficult as it is to imagine this today, during 
early periods the hills in and around the city were 
covered with trees. Beginning some 5000 years 
ago, large trees were cut down to provide timber 
for buildings and ships, while both larger and 
smaller trees were used to fuel the fires in lime 
and pottery kilns and to heat houses in the winter 
months. Areas that had been cleared could be used 
for agricultural purposes, and on the more level 
terrain — for example, the Valley of Rephaim to the 
southwest of Jerusalem — grain crops were planted 
(Isaiah 17:5). 


Jerusalem is surrounded by hills that are higher 
than the hills on which the core of the ancient city 
was built. Roughly speaking, the ancient city can 
be visualized as sitting on a rise in the bottom of a 
large bowl, where the rim of the bowl is higher 
than the rise within it. “As the mountains surround 

Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both 
now and forevermore” (Psalm 125:2). 

Biblical Jerusalem was built on two parallel 
north-south ridges. The western ridge, which is the 
higher and broader of the two, is bounded on the 
west by the Hinnom Valley, which curves around 
and also runs along the south edge of the hill. 

The narrower and lower eastern ridge is 
bounded on the east by the Kidron Valley. Both the 
Hinnom and the Kidron are mentioned in the Bible, 
but the valley between the eastern and western 
ridges is not. For lack of a better name, 
geographers often call it the Central Valley, or — 
following the lead of the Jewish historian Josephus 
— the Tyropoeon (“Cheesemakers”) Valley (War 

In many ways the western ridge is the more 
natural one to settle on, both because it has a 
relatively large surface area and thus can support 
more people, and because it is higher and seems to 
have better natural defenses (higher, steeper 
slopes) than the eastern ridge. In spite of this, it 
was the lower, cigar-shaped, southern portion of 

the eastern ridge that was settled first. The reason 
why the ancient core of Jerusalem developed on 
this insignificant, down-in-a-basin hill was that the 
only good-sized spring in the whole area — the 
Gihon Spring — was located alongside the eastern 
ridge in the Kidron Valley. 

David Captures the City 

The city was on the border between the territories 
of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, although it 
was technically inside Benjamin. During the 
period of the Judges, the city belonged to the 
Jebusites and was called Jebus (Judges 19:11-12). 
It was finally captured by King David, who 
attacked the city at its weakest point — its water 
supply. Since the spring of Gihon was outside the 
city, a tunnel or shaft had apparently been dug to 
the spring or a nearby pool to ensure a water 
supply in times of siege. Whether David’s 
commander Joab entered the city by climbing up 
the water shaft or by cutting off the water supply to 
the city isn’t clear — but Jebus surrendered (2 
Samuel 5:6-8). 

With the capture of Jerusalem, David 
accomplished several strategic goals. First, he 
removed a foreign enclave from a border area and 
thus removed a potential threat to the Israelite 

Second, because of Jerusalem’s neutral 
location — neither in the heartland of Judah, like 
Hebron, David’s former capital, nor in the northern 
part of Israel — it was a capital acceptable to both 
David’s own tribe of Judah and to the tribes of the 
north who had recently acknowledged him as king. 

Besides, by capturing Jerusalem himself, it 
became the personal property of David and his 
descendants that could not be claimed by his own 
or any other tribe — it became the royal seat of the 
Davidic dynasty. In addition, David brought the ark 
of the covenant from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem, 
thus establishing it as the major center of worship 
for all the Israelite tribes (2 Samuel 6:1-23; 1 
Chronicles 13:1-14). 

The city that David captured was small — 
approximately 15 acres (6 hectares) in size, with a 
population of 2000 to 2400. He evidently took up 

residence in the old Jebusite fortress called Zion, 
and from that point on, the fortress as well as the 
city as a whole could be called the “City of 
David’ ’ (e.g., 2 Samuel 5:7). 

Jerusalem Under Solomon 

Toward the end of his reign, David purchased the 
threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, a site to the 
north of (and higher than) the ancient city core; this 
is the place where Solomon eventually built the 
temple (2 Samuel 24:18-25; 1 Chronicles 21:1 8— 
26). Soon after Solomon became king, David died 
and was buried in the City of David (1 Kings 
2:10). Evidently a royal cemetery was established 
where many of his descendants, up through 
Hezekiah (d. 686 B.c,), were buried, but it has not 
been found. 

In the fourth year of his reign (966 B.c,), 
Solomon began building the temple, a task that took 
seven years. The exact location of the temple is not 
known, although an old tradition and modern 
research places it in the immediate vicinity of the 
Moslem shrine called the Dome of the Rock, which 

now occupies the highest point of the temple area. 

Under Solomon the city more than doubled in 
size, from about 15 acres to about 37 acres, with a 
population of about 4500 to 5000 people. Among 
the increased population were at least some of the 
foreign wives whom Solomon married. It was for 
them that Solomon built a number of pagan shrines 
“on a hill east of Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:7-8) — 
probably on the southern portion of the Mount of 
Olives. The location of these shrines was such that 
they towered over both the City of David and the 
temple of the true and living God. 

Jerusalem from Solomon to Its Destruction 

With the secession of the north from the south after 
Solomon’s death (930 b.c.), Solomon’s successors 
ruled over a much smaller territory consisting of 
Judah and a portion of Benjamin. Jerusalem 
remained the seat of the government for the 
Davidic dynasty, and the Solomonic temple 
continued to be the focal point for the worship of 
the God of Israel. 

During the period of the Divided Monarchy 

(930-722 B.c.), Jerusalem was attacked a number 
of times: by the Egyptian pharaoh Shishak during 
the reign of Rehoboam (925 B.c,; 1 Kings 14:22— 
28; 2 Chronicles 12:2-4), and by Hazael of Aram 
Damascus during the reign of Joash (ca. 813 B.c.; 2 
Kings 12:17-18; 2 Chronicles 24: 17-24). In each 
case, lavish gifts, taken from the temple treasury, 
bought off the aggressors. 

But in the days of Amaziah of Judah, King 
Joash of Israel attacked the city and “broke down 
the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the 
Corner Gate — a section about six hundred feet 
long” (ca. 790 B.c.; 2 Chronicles 25:23). 

We are also told that during the 8th century B.c., 
“Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner 
Gate, at the Valley Gate and at the angle of the 
wall . . .” (2 Chronicles 26:9) as he strengthened 
the defenses of the city — perhaps in response to the 
growing Assyrian threat in the person of Tiglath- 
Pileser III. It seems very probable that during 
Uzziah’s reign (792-740 B.c.) and during the reign 
of his successors, Jerusalem expanded westward 
so as to include the southern portion of the western 

ridge. The large increase in the size of Jerusalem 
at this time was probably due to the fact that 
settlers from the northern kingdom moved south so 
as to avoid the Assyrian onslaught; they may have 
thought that Jerusalem would never be taken by a 
foreign power because the temple of the Lord was 
there, and that the Lord would never allow such an 
indignity to be perpetrated (Psalm 132: 13-18). 

Soon after the fall of the northern kingdom in 
722 B.C., Hezekiah revolted against his Assyrian 
overlords (see article on Hezekiah. King of Judah 
in 2 Chronicles) and needed to strengthen 
Jerusalem’s defenses. Evidently it was during his 
reign that the suburb that had developed on the 
southern portion of the western ridge was enclosed 
by a new wall (Isaiah 22: 10). The total area of the 
walled city had swelled to 150 acres (61 ha.) and 
boasted a population of about 25,000. 

Since the major water supply of the city, the 
Gihon Spring, was at some distance from the 
newly enclosed suburb and thus was exposed to 
enemy attack, Hezekiah devised a plan to divert the 
water to a spot inside the city walls, closer to the 

western hill. He did this by digging an underground 
tunnel that followed a serpentine path to a point in 
the Central Valley, which, although it was outside 
of the old city wall of the City of David, was 
inside the newly constructed city wall on the 
western hill. This diversion of the spring water is 
mentioned not only in the Bible (2 Kings 20:20; 2 
Chronicles 32:30), but also in a Hebrew 
inscription that was discovered at the southern end 
of the 1,750-foot tunnel (see ARCHAEOLOGICAL 
NOTE: Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Siloam 

Inscription in 2 Chronicles). 

In 701 B.c. Sennacherib of Assyria attacked. 
Although he sent some of his army and 
commanders to Jerusalem to demand its surrender 
— Sennacherib boasted that he had shut Hezekiah 
up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage — he had to 
retreat when, according to the biblical text, a large 
portion of his army was destroyed through divine 
intervention ( 1 Kings 19:35). 

During the 8th and 7th centuries B.c., there 
were both good and bad rulers in Jerusalem On 
the negative side were Ahaz and Manasseh, both of 

whom sacrificed children in the Valley of Ben 
Hinnom (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; cf. 2 Kings 
23:10). It was during Ahaz’s reign that at least a 
portion of the temple area was remodeled and a 
new altar, based on a pagan pattern from 
Damascus, was built to replace the old one (2 
Kings 16:10-18). 

During this same period there were also two 
godly kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, who worked to 
undo the evil their predecessors had perpetrated by 
taking steps to cleanse and refurbish the temple. It 
was during such a rebuilding, in the days of Josiah 
(ca. 622 B.c.), that the Book of the Law was 
discovered, and in obedience to its commands, 
additional reforms were instituted (2 Kings 22; 2 
Chronicles 34). But because of the continuing sins 
of the people and their leaders, God’s judgment 
finally fell on Jerusalem. In 586 B.c, when the 
Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed both 
the city and the temple, most of the people were 
deported to Babylonia. 

The Rebuilding of Jerusalem 

Fifty years later, the first group of Jews — some 
50,000 — was allowed to return to Jerusalem. They 
rebuilt the sacrificial altar, but it was not until 
some 20 years later that the temple was rebuilt 
under Zerubbabel and completed in 516 B.c. (Ezra 
6). This second temple was a much more modest 
structure than Solomon’s temple had been. A 
second return was led by Ezra in 458 B.c,, but the 
city walls were not rebuilt until 445 B.c,, under 
Nehemiah, almost a century after the first Jews 
returned from Babylon. 

From the time of Nehemiah (445 B.c.) until the 
beginning of the 2nd century B.c,, not too much is 
known about Jerusalem. The city remained under 
Persian control until 332 B.c,, when Alexander the 
Great conquered the Middle East. After his death 
in 323 B.c, the Ptolemies of Egypt gained control of 
Palestine and Judah, and it is generally assumed 
that under their benign rule a priestly aristocracy 
governed from Jerusalem. 

But early in the 2nd century B.c,, the Seleucid 
king Antiochus 111 defeated the Ptolemies (198 
B.c,), and the change in rule was welcomed by 

most of the Jewish population. With his support, 
repairs were made to the temple and a large pool 
— possibly the Pool ofBethesda — was constructed 
(Ecclesiasticus 50:1-3). 

Antiochus IV (175-164 B.c.), however, tried to 
stamp out the Jewish religion. The temple in 
Jerusalem was desecrated, and a statute of the 
chief Greek god, Olympian Zeus, was set up in its 
precincts (168 B.c,). It addition, other Greek 
structures were erected in Jerusalem, including a 
gymnasium and a citadel. The citadel, called the 
Akra in Greek, was built on the eastern ridge just 
south of the temple area and was so tall that it 
towered over the temple area. Although Judas 
Maccabaeus’s forces were able to retake 
Jerusalem, to purify the temple (164 b.c,), and to 
reestablish sacrificial worship, the Seleucid 
garrison in the Akra remained a thorn in the side ol 
the Jews until Judas’s brother Simon (142-135 
B.c.) captured and demolished it — even leveling 
the hill upon which it had stood (Josephus, Antiq. 
13.6.7 [215]). 

At the end of the Hellenistic period the 

Hasmonean brothers Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II 
vied with each other for the office of high priest 
and control of the country. In the end, the Roman 
general Pompey intervened and marched on 
Jerusalem. After he set up camps to the southwest 
and northwest of the city, the city on the western 
ridge was handed over to him by the followers of 
Hyrcanus. However, the supporters of Aristobulus 
put up a defense on the eastern ridge. In response, 
Pompey erected a siege dike around the ridge and, 
after building assault ramps, attacked the temple 
area from the west, across the ruins of the bridge 
that had spanned the Central Valley, and also from 
the north. 

The arrival of Pompey marked the beginning of 
the long period of control over Jerusalem by Rome 
and its Byzantine successor, which would last until 
the time of the Persian and Arab conquests (a.d. 
614 and 639), save for brief periods during the 
first and second Jewish revolts. 

Jerusalem Under Herod the Great 

At the beginning of the period of Roman rule, 

Jerusalem experienced great expansion, 

construction, and beautification under the 

leadership of the Roman client-king Herod the 
Great (37-4 B.c,). One of his great achievements 
was the refurbishing of the temple and the Temple 
Mount. Although he was limited in what he could 
do to the temple building itself — the divine word 
and tradition dictated its basic dimensions — he 
spent more than a year and a half beautifying and 
refurbishing the structure. 

He did not face similar restrictions when it 
came to the courts that surrounded the temple, and 
so he spent great sums on expanding these. He is 
said to have doubled the size of the platform area 
so that it reached its present size — which is almost 
twice the size of the city of Jerusalem captured by 
David some 1000 years earlier. Although no 
remnants of Herod’s temple have been found that 
can be identified as such with certainty, the huge 
platform on which its courts were built has 
survived. The area is now occupied by Moslem 
structures and is called the Haram esh-Sharif — the 
Noble Sanctuary. 

In constructing this large platform, Herod made 
use of some existing walls, especially on the east, 
but he expanded the platform to the north, west, 
and south. Indeed, the western expansion was such 
that part of the Central Valley was filled in and 
covered over. Today some 26 courses of Herodian 
stones, founded on bedrock, are still standing. 
These stones are cut so precisely that no mortar 
was used in the construction of the wall. A typical 
stone weighs two to 10 tons, while the largest of 
the known stones measures 46 x 10 x 10 feet and 
weighs 415 tons! A portion of this is known as the 
“Western Wall” or “Wailing Wall.” 

Along the upper perimeter of the huge temple 
platform Herod built or refurbished a number of 
covered colonnades. The most famous of these was 
the southern one, the “Royal Colonnade.” It 
consisted of 162 columns arranged in four rows, 
forming a long basilica-shaped building. The 
columns themselves were 27 feet (8 m.) high and 
4.6 feet (1.4 m.) in diameter and were crowned 
with Corinthian capitals. Although nothing of the 
colonnade remains today, the appearance of its 

outer wall can be surmised from the pilaster- 
recessed design that is evident in the Herodian 
structure that encloses the Tomb of the Patriarchs 
in Hebron as well as from architectural fragments 
found in recent excavations (see photo of the Tomb 
of the Patriarchs in Hebron ). 

To the south of the Temple Mount, large 
portions of the formal staircase that led up to the 
Huldah Gates have been discovered. The 
foundations of the gates are still visible in the 
southern wall of the Haram enclosure (the so- 
called double and triple gates). Although they are 
now closed, the underground passages that lead up 
to the top of the mount inside the wall are still 
preserved. In excavations along the southern 
portion of the western enclosure wall, portions of 
the north-south street, a city drain, and most 
interestingly, the piers that supported a platform 
and staircase that led south, from a gate in the 
southern section of the western wall of the Temple 
Mount into the Central Valley, have been found. A 
large, dressed stone has also been found, inscribed 
in Hebrew with the words “For the place of the 

trumpet blowing.” Evidently, this stone had fallen 
from its position on the southwest pinnacle of the 
Temple Mount, where it had marked the spot where 
the priest stood to blow the trumpet to announce to 
the citizens of Jerusalem the beginning of the 
Sabbath, New Moon, New Year, and other special 

It took Herod almost 10 years to complete the 
major construction on the Temple Mount, but crews 
were still working on the project long after 
Herod’s death in 4 B.c., during Jesus’ lifetime 
(John 2:20; ca. a.d. 28), and even as late as a.d. 64 
— only six years before it was destroyed by the 
Romans in a.d. 70. 

To the northwest of the temple Herod rebuilt 
the fortress that had stood there and named it the 
Antonia, after his friend Mark Antony. This 
fortress, situated on a rocky scarp, towered over 
the temple area and housed a garrison whose duty 
it was to monitor and control the crowds that 
gathered in the temple precincts. It is traditionally 
assumed that it was here that Jesus stood before 
Pilate on the day of His crucifixion, but it is more 

likely that Pilate was staying at the palace of 
Herod Antipas, and that that was where Jesus was 
interrogated, humiliated, and condemned. What is 
certain is that the apostle Paul was taken to the 
Antonia Fortress (“the barracks”) after being 
rescued from an angry mob by Roman soldiers 
(Acts 21:34). 

(For the history of Jerusalem from the time of 
the New Testament until the present, see A Brief 
History of the Holy Land and the Jews Since the 
Time of Christ . ) 

Writing. Books, and the Bible 

Until about the 18th century, knowledge of the past 
was limited. Where facts were missing, the 
imagination took over and filled the gaps. 

Thus, in 1572 the Dutch artist Maerten van 
Heemskerck made a drawing of the ancient city of 
Babylon. It looked like a European city of his day, 
with a few exotic elements thrown in, such as the 
spiral steeple on the tower and the citizens’ lack of 
clothing. And he was not alone. Rembrandt’s 
paintings of biblical scenes show oddly Dutch 
interiors, while the great Italian painters of the 
Renaissance often use the Italian countryside as the 
backdrop for biblical paintings. 

The Industrial Revolution brought with it the 
need to move large quantities of soil for the 
building of factory foundations, railways, and so 
forth. In the process, artifacts came to light that 

were clearly ancient, and people began to think 
about the past in more concrete terms. 

A 16th-century view of the past: Van Heemskerck’s city of 


In 1798, Napoleon staged an expedition to Egypt. 
He took with him a number of scholars to survey 

the antiquities of Egypt and to bring some of them 
to France. (The most visible reminder of this is the 
great obelisk on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, 
erected by Raineses II in 1250 b.c, in Luxor and 
moved to Paris in 1831.) The scholars with 
Napoleon saw the pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and 
the many temples and statues that were partially 
buried in the sand. They also saw the hieroglyphics 
that covered many of these monuments and realized 
that they were a written language, but no one had 
any idea what they meant. Thus these monuments 
were mute witnesses to ancient grandeur — and 
Egyptian history remained by and large a closed 

Until the hieroglyphics of Egypt were deciphered, monuments 
such as this obelisk of Rameses II at Luxor were mute. 

A relatively modest discovery provided the 
clue. In Rosetta, a town at the western edge of the 
Nile Delta, a piece of black granite was found, 
about 4x2 1/2 feet — somewhat smaller than a 
fully opened newspaper — that contained three 
inscriptions, one above the other. The bottom one 
was Greek, which was known and could be 
translated, but the top one was in Egyptian 

hieroglyphics and the middle one in Demotic, a 
simplified Egyptian script. The Greek text 
indicated that the stone contained a decree of 
Ptolemy V and was made around 200 B.c. 

The Rosetta Stone, which proved to be the key to the 
deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

Assuming that all three languages on the 
Rosetta Stone meant the same thing, one of the 
problems was that no one knew whether the 
hieroglyphs were ideographic (each sign 
representing an idea) or phonetic (each sign 

representing a sound). The breakthrough came with 
the realization that the name of Ptolemy V in the 
hieroglyphic text was surrounded by a cartouche, 
or frame (see photo below). In 1822, the French 
scholar Jean-Frangois Champollion finally 
succeeded in deciphering the hieroglyphic 
inscriptions (it turned out that the hieroglyphics 
were partly ideographic, partly phonetic). His 
achievement was due in part to the fact that he had 
also studied Coptic, a language derived from 
Egyptian that is still in use today as the liturgical 
language of the Coptic church. 

A cartouche with the name of Rameses II, who some believe 
to have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus. 


Interest in the antiquities of Mesopotamia, where 
the Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires 
had flourished, began at about the same time. In 
1811, Claude James Rich, an agent of the British 
East India Company who lived in Baghdad, 50 
miles northeast of the site of ancient Babylon, 
became curious after seeing some inscribed bricks 
brought in by a fellow agent. Rich visited the site 
of Babylon. He stayed for 10 days, during which 
he located and charted the vast collection of 
mounds that had once been Babylon. With the help 
of inhabitants of the region he dug into the mounds 
and found a few tablets, which he carried back to 

In 1820 he visited Mosul and spent four months 
sketching a plan of the mounds just across the 
river, which he suspected were the ruins of 
Nineveh. Here also he collected tablets and 
inscriptions that neither he nor anyone else could 

The key to deciphering the Babylonian 
language turned out to be, as had been the case 
with Egyptian hieroglyphs, the discovery of an 
inscription in three languages. This time it was a 
massive inscription, chiseled some 400 feet above 
the ground into a vertical rock wall, 200 miles 
northeast of Babylon. The inscription had been 
made by order of King Darius Hyspastes of Persia 
in 516 B.c. (This was the same Darius under whom 
the temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt, as told in 
Ezra, and the Behistun inscription was made in the 
same year the temple was completed.) The 
inscription gave a long account, in Persian, 
Elamite, and Babylonian, of the conquests of 

Sir Henry Rawlinson, the British consul- 
general in Baghdad, had some knowledge of 
Persian. With amazing perseverance he began 
copying the inscriptions in 1835. ft involved a 
great deal of physical risk, but he continued his 
self-appointed task off and on until, in 1847, he 
finished his copying, with the help of ladders from 
below and swings from above — and especially the 

assistance of “a wild Kurdish boy,” whose name 
remains unknown. His efforts paid off: soon 
Rawlinson was able to decipher the Babylonian 

Most cuneiform tablets contain only text. This tablet shows text 
above an Assyrian map and dates perhaps to the 9th century 

Ancient Libraries 

The key to the ancient Babylonian language had 
been found just in time for the vast treasures of 
ancient Babylonian literature that were discovered 

during that period. In 1842, Paul Emil Botta, the 
French consul at Mosul, began digging in the 
mounds near Mosul that had intrigued Rich so 
much, and in the following 10 years he laid bare 
the magnificent palace of Sargon at Khorsabad. 

Sir Austen Henry Layard, an Englishman who 
is called the “father of Assyriology,” discovered in 
1845-51, at Nineveh and Calah, ruins of the 
palaces of five Assyrian kings who are named in 
the Bible, and the great library of Ashur-banipal, 
which is estimated to have contained 100,000 

Thus it turned out that, contrary to what had 
been thought before, the ancient Near East was 
highly literate. Large libraries had been brought 
together that might contain royal archives, 
dictionaries, and other reference works, as well as 
books on law, religion, science, and literature. 

Another one of the great collections of tablets 
that has been found is the library of Sargon (722- 
705 B.c.), which consists of 25,000 tablets, and the 
royal library of Ashurbanipal (662-626 B.c.), with 
20,000 tablets. (Both of these libraries are now in 

the British Museum) Other major finds were made 
at Nuzi (20,000 tablets from the 2nd millennium 
B.c.), at Nippur, 50 miles southeast of Babylon 
(some 50,000 tablets from the 4th and 5th centuries 
b.c,), and elsewhere. 

Perhaps the greatest library of all antiquity was 
that of Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria and its 
library were founded by Alexander the Great a 
little before 300 b.c. The library collected books 
dealing with all areas of learning. It truly became a 
repository for all the knowledge of the ancient 
world. The books in the library were not clay 
tablets, but scrolls of papyrus or parchment. 

The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the 
Old Testament) was made in Alexandria in the 
middle of the 3rd century B.c., probably in this 

Sadly, the magnificent collection of books was 
destroyed when the Arabs, under Caliph Omar, 
conquered Egypt in 642. According to legend, 
Omar’s rationale for burning the library was quite 
simple: if the books agreed with the Koran, they 
were superfluous; if they disagreed, they were 

evil. (It may well be, however, that after three 
centuries of Christian control of Alexandria, not 
much was left of the collection, given the 
antagonism toward pagan learning in the early 
centuries of the church.) 

Monasteries were also places where books 
were collected and preserved. Manuscripts of the 
Bible and other writings were copied in 
monasteries during the Middle Ages. 

We will never know how many priceless 
manuscripts were lost or destroyed over the years 
— even in monasteries. One of the two earliest, 
most valuable, and most complete manuscripts of 
the Bible was discovered by accident in St. 
Catherine’s Monastery, in the shadow of Mount 
Sinai (hence the name of the manuscript, Codex 
Sinaiticus; see The Codex Sinaiticus in section 2, 
How the Text of the Bible was Preserved). It was 
waiting, with other manuscripts, to be used for fuel 
in a fireplace. 

The Development of Writing 

It was not until some of the major ancient 
languages had been deciphered that it became 
possible to piece together when and how writing 
developed. This was not merely an academic 
issue. In the 19th century the view held (based on 
“scientific evidence”) that writing did not develop 
until after the time of Moses, so that the first five 
books of the Bible could not possibly have been 
written by Moses and that, in fact, the early 
portions of Scripture were essentially frauds. 

But careful study of the evidence has shown 
that writing developed around 3150 B.c, — more 
than a millennium before Abraham and more than a 
millennium and a half before Moses! 


The invention of writing was without question one 
of the most significant inventions in human history. 
It was the watershed between what we call 
prehistory and history — between the past we can 
know only from physical remains (monuments, 
implements, human remains, etc.) and the past we 
can also know to some extent through written texts. 

Without written texts to help us reconstruct the 
past, we are limited to conjecture and guesswork. 
(An indication of this is the frequency with which 
objects from preliterate societies are identified as 
“religious objects” — which often means that we 
don’t have a clue as to their significance.) 

Writing was invented to meet the practical 
needs of an increasingly complex society. As trade 
grew, it became obvious that it was unsatisfactory 
to keep track of shipments, goods, and payments by 
means of counting-stones with symbols for objects 
or animals scratched in them. Thus, around 3100 
B.c. the Sumerians in Mesopotamia came up with a 
system of hundreds of somewhat simplified 
pictograms (pictures that represent specific things) 
as well as signs for measures and numbers. These 
were pressed into clay tablets, which made it 
possible to maintain more or less permanent 

A portion of a relief of Sennacherib’s attack on Lachish (2 
Chronicles 32). Without an understanding of the cuneiform 
inscriptions, it would have been virtually impossible to identify 
this relief as representing a biblical event. (See also the article 
on Hezekiah. Kina of Judah in 2 Chronicles) 

Once writing was in use, the relatively 
complex symbols became increasingly simplified 
(streamlining is not a modern invention) and 
ultimately became simple, abstract, and geometric 
forms. But the symbols still were cumbersome in 
that each word or each syllable required a separate 

symbol. (In English we use a few symbols for 
whole words — for example, @, #, $, %, &.) 

The idea that it was possible to capture 
language by means of writing soon traveled along 
the trade routes to the east and west. The Elamites 
to the east adopted the new writing, and from there 
it traveled to India and then to China. 

When the Egyptians learned of the art of 
writing, they — unlike the Assyrians and 

Babylonians, who adapted the earliest writing 
symbols — created their own symbols, the 


The Alphabet 

Next to the invention of writing itself, the most 
important development was the invention of 
phonetic symbols — the alphabet. No longer did 
each word or syllable require a separate symbol. 
Any word now could be expressed with 
somewhere between 20 and 30 symbols. The 
invention of alphabetic writing is usually credited 
to the Phoenicians, who lived north of Canaan, 
although we do not in fact know exactly where and 

when the oldest alphabet came into existence. But 
it was sometime around 1500 B.c. What is known 
is that all later alphabets were either derived from 
the Phoenician alphabet or created under the 
influence of its derivatives. 

scenes show the soul of the deceased hovering over the body 
(top); the mummy being prepared (middle); the funeral 
procession (bottom). 

The Phoenicians initially had no symbols for 
vowels (a, e, i, o, u), only for consonants. The 
Hebrew alphabet, which, like all alphabets, 
derives from the Phoenician, also only has signs 
for consonants. Later, when Hebrew ceased to be a 
living language, there was a need for vowels to be 
added to make sure that the text was read correctly. 
This was done in the period B.c, 500-1000 by 
Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes, who 
indicated vowels by means of small lines and dots 
placed in, under, and above the consonants. (Today 
Hebrew, once again a living language, is again 
written without vowels.) 

In the beginning God created 
Hebrew text without vowel points 

c'rfTK ton mtfiro 

Hebrew text with vowel points 

v: r r • : 

The Hebrew text of the first words of Genesis, both 
without vowels and with the vowel “pointings” that were 
added during the Middle Ages. 

(The downside of the alphabet is that any 
written text can only be understood by those who 
speak the specific language. The use of symbols 
for words or ideas makes it possible for a 
language such as Chinese to be read and 
understood by people who speak different dialects 
and cannot understand one another when they 

The third major development, after writing and 
the alphabet, was the invention of printing, which 
revolutionized the world. 

Writing, Books, and the Bible 

It is difficult for us, inundated as we are with 
written words, to imagine what it must have been 
like to encounter writing for the first time. A 
person’s words could travel without that person — 
or even anyone who had heard him or her speak — 
being present. Magic indeed! It is not surprising 
that in mythology, writing is viewed as a gift from 
the gods. At first, writing was available only to an 
elite group in which priests figured prominently, 
since writing was a means of guarding and 
transmitting sacred knowledge. (Writing was also 
a way to preserve the knowledge of a ruler’s 
exploits and through selectivity a highly effective 
means of propaganda, since only victories were 
memorialized, while defeats were ignored or 
somehow cast in a positive light.) 

There are numerous references in the Bible to 
the writing of books and to the places where they 
were deposited. As early as Exodus 17:14, after 
Israel’s defeat of Amalek, Moses was told, “Write 

this on a scroll as something to be remembered.” 
There is no indication where the scroll was 
deposited, but it is noteworthy that the next 
statement is that “Moses built an altar” (this took 
place before the building of the Tabernacle). 

Similarly, soon after he received the Ten 
Commandments, “Moses . . . wrote down 

everything the Lord had said,” and again, his next 
act was the building of an altar (Exodus 24:4). 

An Egyptian scribe. In ancient cultures, scribes (who 
specialized in reading and writing) were held in high esteem. 

From the very beginning, the Israelites were a 
people of the Book. The words of God and the 
narrative of His actions on behalf of His people 
are preserved and read to the people: “[Moses] 
took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the 
people” (Exodus 24:7). 

The priests and Levites were the 
acknowledged keepers of these sacred volumes. At 
the end of the Ten Commandments we read, “After 
Moses finished writing in a book the words of this 
law from beginning to end, he gave this command 
to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant 
of the Lord: ‘Take this Book of the Law and place 
it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your 
God’ ” (Deuteronomy 3 1 : 24-26). 

In Deuteronomy we also read that when in the 
future Israel gets a king, and the king “takes the 
throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on 
a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the 
priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and 
he is to read it all the days of his life so that he 
may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow 
carefully all the words of this law and these 
decrees” (Deuteronomy 17: 18). 

When Israel got its first king, Saul, “Samuel 
explained to the people the regulations of the 
kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and 
deposited it before the Lord” (1 Samuel 10:25). 
This writing down and depositing it in the 

tabernacle was not simply a matter of keeping 
record but rather a solemn ceremony that put Saul 
under an obligation to God and the people. The 
scroll would serve as a witness against him before 
God if he failed to fulfill his royal office. 

The first books of the Bible are variously 
referred to as the Book of the Covenant or the 
Book of the Law. During a period when Judah, the 
southern kingdom, ignored the Lord, the Book of 
the Law was actually lost for a period of time and 
then rediscovered by Hilkiah in the temple (2 
Kings 18: 18ffi; 23:2, 21; 2 Chronicles 34:14-15). 
And Jehoshaphat (872-848 B.c.) sent Levites out to 
teach in Judah: “They taught throughout Judah, 
taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; 
they went around to all the towns of Judah and 
taught the people” (2 Chronicles 17:9). 

Thus, the writings commanded by God were in 
some way identified with the ark of the covenant, 
the tabernacle, the priests, and the Levites. This 
would seem to imply that there was a library in the 
temple in Jerusalem, but there is no direct 
statement in the Bible to support this. However, it 

is clear that there were collections of books in 
Israel. In addition to the Book of the Law there are 
references to other books: the Book of the Wars of 
the Lord (Numbers 21:14), the Book of Jasher 
(Joshua 10: 12-13), the Book of Nathan the Prophet 
and the Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 
29:29), and the Chronicles of the Seers (2 
Chronicles 33: 19). These books, now all lost, must 
have been in existence and accessible, since they 
are referred to in the same way we would use “For 
further information, see. . . .” 

The caves at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were 

found. The jar and the scroll are replicas. The actual scrolls 
had to be unrolled with special methods, and most ended up in 
fragments that had to be pieced together. 

In addition to these sources mentioned directly, 
there must have been collections of treaties, 
genealogies, business transactions, and the like. 
The first 1 1 chapters of 1 Chronicles, for example, 
required an extensive collection of genealogical 
records. Ecclesiastes 12:12 also indirectly 
supports the idea of collections of books: “Of 
making many books there is no end.” 

The oldest library that has been preserved is 
the library at Qumran, about a mile west of the 
northwest corner of the Dead Sea, which contained 
the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. This collection of 
scrolls — some complete, some only fragmentary — 
consisted of several hundred manuscripts, about 
100 of them biblical manuscripts. They were 
discovered by accident by a Bedouin in 1947. The 
library was put there by a Jewish sect with a 
monastery in the vicinity. The manuscripts date 
from the last century B.c, and the first century a.d. 
One of the manuscripts contained the book of 

Isaiah. It was about 1000 years older than the 
oldest copy that was known before 1947, and the 
two turned out to be virtually identical! 

How We Got the Bible 

For more information on how we got the Bible and 
how it was transmitted over the centuries, see How 
We Got the Bible. 

Roads and Routes in Canaan 

'he Old Testament 

Genesis 1-11 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the 
earth.” In quiet grandeur and simplicity it is stated, 
without argument, without explanation. 

The first 11 chapters of Genesis are part of a 
much larger work: the Pentateuch — the first five 
books of the Bible, which according to tradition 
were written by Moses. He wrote these books for 
the people of Israel on their way to Canaan, the 
Promised Land. 

Genesis 1-11 sets the stage and holds the key 
to our understanding of the entire Bible, both Old 
and New Testaments. Within these few chapters, 
God reveals Himself to us — He is the Creator, our 
loving Father, the provider, and a just judge. God 
creates man in His own image, with a free will. 
Satan, the great deceiver, introduces sin into God’s 
perfect creation. God cannot tolerate sin. Because 

God is a just judge, there is consequence for sin. 
God has a plan to redeem man to Himself and put 
an end to Satan’s power forever. 

God’s redemptive plan, which is introduced in 
Genesis 1-11, provides for us the backdrop of why 
God chose Noah and why He chooses Abraham. 
This is also why He will make Abraham a blessing 
to the world — God’s plan for the redemption of the 
world runs through Abraham and through the nation 
of Israel and leads us ultimately to Jesus Christ, 
our Savior. 

Genesis 1-11 

Creation; Adam and Eve 
Cain and Abel 
Noah and the Flood 
Tower of Babel 

God saw all that he had made, and it was 
very good. 

— Genesis 1:31 

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it 
will be the sign of the covenant between me 
and the earth. . . . Never again will the 
waters become a flood to destroy all life. ” 

— Genesis 9:13-15 

Who Wrote Genesis? 

Ancient Hebrew and Christian traditions say that 
Moses, guided by God, composed Genesis from 
ancient documents that were already in existence in 
his day. The book of Genesis ends about 300 years 
before Moses. Moses could have received this 
information only by direct revelation from God, or 
through such historical records as had been handed 
down from his forefathers. 

How Genesis Is Organized 

The book begins with the “Creation Hymn,” 
followed by 10 “accounts” (KJ\( generations), 
which constitute the framework of Genesis. It 
seems that they were incorporated bodily by 
Moses, with such additions and explanations as he 
may have been guided by God to make. These 11 
documents are as follows: 

1. Creation Hymn (1: 1-2:3). 

2. The account of “the heavens and the earth 
when they were created” (2:4-4:26). 

3. The account of Adam’s line (5: 1-6:8). 

4. The account of Noah (6:9-9:28). 

5. The account of “Shem, Ham and Japheth, 
Noah’s sons” (10:1-11:9). 

6. The account of Shem (11: 10-26). 

7. The account ofTerah (11:27-25: 11). 

8. The account of “Abraham’s son Ishmael, 
whom Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar the 
Egyptian, bore to Abraham.” (25: 12-18). 

9. The account of “Abraham’s son Isaac” 

10. The account of “Esau (that is, Edom)” (36: 1- 

11. The account of Jacob (37:2-50:26). 

These 1 1 documents form the book of Genesis. 

• The first six accounts cover the period from 
creation until about 2000 B.c, (Genesis 1-11). 

• The last five accounts cover the life of 
Abraham and the three generations after him, 
from about 2000 b.c. until about 1800 b.c. 

The book begins with the creation and the first 
humans in the Garden of Eden. It ends with 

Abraham’s descendants in Egypt. 

Between the end of Genesis and the beginning 
of the next book, Exodus, is a gap of about 400 

1. The “Creation Hymn,” 
Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 

A poetic description, in measured, majestic 
movement, of the successive steps of creation, cast 
in the mold of the oft-recurring biblical number 
seven. In all literature, scientific or otherwise, 
there is no more sublime account of the origin of 

Who wrote the “Creation Hymn”? Used by 
Moses, but written, no doubt, long before. Writing 
was in common use long before the days of Moses. 
Furthermore, some of God’s “commands, decrees, 
and laws” were in existence in the days of 
Abraham, 600 years before Moses (Genesis 26:5). 

How did the writer know what happened 
before man appeared? No doubt God revealed the 

remote past, as later the distant future was made 
known to the prophets. 

So God created man in his own image, 
in the image of God he created him; 
male and female he created them. God 
blessed them and said to them, “Be 
fruitful and increase in number; fill the 
earth and subdue it. ” 

— Genesis 1:27-28 

Who knows, perhaps God Himself may have 
taught this hymn to Adam? And it may have been 
recited by word of mouth, around the family circle, 
or sung as a ritual in primitive worship (hymns 
constituted a large part of the very earliest forms of 
literature), generation after generation, until 
writing was invented; God Himself then guarded 
its transmission until finally it found its intended 
place as the opening statement in the divine Book 
of the Ages. 

Who Made God? 

Every child asks this question — and no one 
can answer it. There are some things beyond 
us. We cannot conceive of the beginning of 
time, nor the end of time, nor the boundaries 
of space. The world has been in existence 
always, or it was made out of nothing — one or 
the other. Yet we can conceive of neither. 

This we do know: the highest of all things 
within reach of our thinking is personality, 
mind, intelligence. Where did it come from? 
Could the inanimate create intelligence? In 
faith we accept, as the ultimate in our 
thinking, a power higher than ourselves — God 
— in hope that someday, in the beyond, we 
shall understand the mysteries of existence. 

If the Bible is God’s Word, as we believe it is, 

and if God knew from the beginning that He was 
going to use the Bible as a main instrument in the 
redemption of humanity, why should it be difficult 
to believe that God Himself gave the germ and 
nucleus of that Word? 


“In the beginning” God created the universe. What 
follows, in the “seven days,” is a description of the 
forming of substance already created in 
preparation for the creation of Adam 

Gen. 1:2-2: 3 THE SEVEN DAYS 

Whether the seven days were days of 24 hours, or 
long, successive periods, we do not know. The 
word “day” has variable meanings. In 1:5 it is 
used as a term for light. In 1 :8 and 1:13 it seems to 
mean a day of 24 hours. In 1:14 and 1:16 it seems 

to refer to a 12-hour day. In 2:4 it seems to cover 
the whole period of creation. In passages such as 
Joel 3:18, Acts 2:20, and John 16:23, “that day” 
seems to mean the whole Christian era. In passages 
such as 2 Timothy 1:12 the expression seems to 
refer to the era beyond the Lord’s Second Coming. 
And in Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8, “With the Lord 
a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years 
are like one day.” 

Note that the six days form three pairs (days 1 
and 4; 2 and 5; 3 and 6). In the first of each pair the 
realm is created that is later populated by the 
objects or beings that are created in the second. 
Day 1: Light and dark 
Day 2 : Sea and sky 
Day 3 : Fertile earth 
Day 4: Lights of day and night 
Day 5 : Creatures of water and air 
Day 6 : Creatures of the land; land animals; 
humans’ provision of food 



in Genesis 1:2-2:3 

1 . Announcement “and God said” 

2. Command “let there be,” “let [them] be 
gathered,” etc. 

3. Report “and it was so” 

— a descriptive phrase telling what 
God did 

— a word of naming or blessing 

4. Evaluation “it was good” 

5. Temporal statement “there was evening, 
and there was 

morning — the — day” 

First Day: Light, 1:2-5 

The heavens and the earth were created by God in 
the beginning — sometime in the dateless past. All 
was dark, empty, and formless until God said, “Let 
there be light,” and there was light. We see that 

God’s creative power is manifested by simply 
speaking. His first creative word called forth light 
in the midst of darkness. 

In John 1:1—2 we learn that the “Word” (Jesus) 
was in the beginning, and that the “Word” was with 
God and was God. John further tells us that 
“through him [the Word] all things were made; 
without him nothing was made that has been made” 

God did not just make a physical universe: 
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very 
good” (Genesis 1:31). Whatever God makes is 
very good indeed, because the Word through which 
He created all things is the very essence of 
goodness, beauty, and light: “In him [Jesus] was 
life, and that life was the light of men. The light 
shines in the darkness” (John 1:4), now as it did at 
the very beginning of creation. 

Creation and Re-creation? 

While most Bible students believe that 

Genesis is an account of creation, some 
believe that Genesis gives us an account of 
both creation and re-creation. In the case of 
the latter, v. 1 tells of the original creation, 
while v. 2, “Now the earth was [became] 
formless and empty,” tells of a time 
subsequent to the initial creation when God 
re-created the heavens and the earth after 
they had become formless and void, perhaps 
due to some catastrophic event. The Hebrew 
word for “was” used here in the original text is 
translated “became” where it appears 
elsewhere in the Bible. 

Second Day: The Expanse, 1:6-8 

The expanse (K.JY firmament), called “sky,” is the 
atmosphere, or layer of air between the water- 
covered earth and the clouds above, made possible 
by the cooling of the earth’s waters. 

Third Day: Land and Vegetation, 1:9-13 

Up to this point, the earth’s surface seems to have 
been entirely covered with water. God commanded 
the water to gather in one place that He called 
“seas.” We envision that the earth’s crust, as it 
became cooler and thicker, began to buckle, and 
islands and continents began to appear. There was 
as yet no rain, but dense mists watered the newly 
formed land, which was still warm by its own 
heat. A tropical climate was everywhere, and 
vegetation must have grown rapidly and in gigantic 

Fourth Day: Sun, Moon, and Stars, 1:14-19 

On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon, and 
stars. It is likely that seasons came when the 
earth’s surface ceased to receive heat primarily 
from within and became dependent on the sun’s 

In v.16 we learn that the “greater light” rules 
the day and the “lesser light” rules the night. These 
sources of light have three primary functions (vv. 
17-18): they give light to the earth, they govern the 
day and night, and they separate light from 


These passages are beautiful examples of how 
God has manifested His image, His divine 
characteristics, in all of His creation. 

Fifth Day: Sea Animals and Birds, 1:20-25 

By God’s blessing and with His command, “be 
fruitful and increase in number,” the sea creatures 
and birds filled the waters and increased on the 

The Universe God Created 

Astronomers estimate that the Milky Way, the 
galaxy to which our earth and solar system 
belong, contains over 30 billion suns. Many of 
these suns are immensely larger than our sun, 
which is a million and a half times larger than 
the earth. The Milky Way is shaped like a thin 
watch; its diameter from rim to rim is 200,000 
light-years. (A light-year is the distance that 
light travels in a year at the rate of 186,00 

miles per second.) There are at least 100,000 
galaxies like the Milky Way, some of them 
millions of light-years apart. All this may be 
only a tiny speck in what is beyond in the 
seemingly infinite, endless reaches of space. 

Note the progression: inanimate things on the 
first and second days, plant life on the third day, 
and animal life on the fifth day 

Sixth Day: Land Animals and Man, 1 : 24-3 1 

The earth was at last ready for animals and, 
ultimately, man. God reveals that each living 
creature on the land is created “according to their 
kind.” This refutes the notion that all species of 
animals evolved from a single, common, primeval 
organism. It supports the scientific evidence that 
living creatures have adapted over time to their 
environment, while there is no convincing 
evidence that one species of animal has evolved 
into another. 

God created Adam and Eve in His own image. 

God’s divine blessing and benediction for male 
and female together was to flourish and multiply so 
as to fill the earth and exercise rulership 
(stewardship) over all creation. God’s universal 
reign is reflected in the rulership that He 
commissions humanity to carry out over all earthly 
creation. In a sense, God has created the earth as 
man’s training camp, where He is preparing us for 
our eternal destiny where we will rule and reign 
with Christ over all the universe (2 Timothy 2:12; 
Revelation 3:21). 

God saw everything that He had made, and it 
was “good” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). But soon 
the picture darkened. God must have known 
beforehand that it would, and He must have 
regarded his whole work of the creation of 
humanity as but a step toward the glorious world 
that will yet emerge from it, as is told in the 
closing chapters of the book of Revelation. 

It is interesting to note that God declared all 
that he had made on the sixth day “very good” 
perhaps to stress the relative significance of this 
day in comparison to the prior days. 

Seventh Day: God Rested, 2: 1-3 

God did not rest in an absolute sense (John 5:17), 
but from this particular creative work. This was 
the basis of the Sabbath (Exodus 20:11). The 
“Sabbath rest” is also an image of heaven 
(Hebrews 4:4, 9). 

Creation Stories. Various epics of creation have 
been found in the ruins of Babylon, Nineveh, 
Nippur, and Ashur which are strikingly similar to 
the “Creation Hymn” of Genesis. These epics were 
written on clay tablets from before the time of 

These Babylonian and Assyrian (as well as the 
Egyptian) creation stories are all grossly 
polytheistic. They usually argue for the 
preeminence of one of the gods and often reflect 
conflict or war among the gods. The creation 
account in Genesis stands in stark contrast to these 
stories by its simplicity and clarity: “In the 
beginning God created. . . .” 

What Is the “Image of God”? 

Passages such as Genesis 9:6 and James 
3:9 show that the image of God in humans 
was not lost at the time of the Fall and that 
even those who are not part of the people of 
God possess it. The phrase “image of God” is 
not used frequently in Scripture, and its exact 
meaning is difficult to determine. 

• Some have suggested that it may refer to 
some spiritual, mental, and/or 
psychological quality in humans, such as 
the ability to think, to feel emotions, or to 
choose (= free will). 

• Others stress the context of Genesis 
1:26-27, where the emphasis is on 
humans “ruling” over God’s creation. 
From the context it is possible to suggest 
that as God created, so those who are 
bestowed with His image are also to be 
“creators”; for example, the first humans 

were commanded to name the animals 
and to “be fruitful and multiply.” 

• Finally, some stress the “relational” 
quality of the Triune Godhead that is 
hinted at in the phrases “let us" and “our 
image.” They suggest that just as there 
are relationships within the Godhead, so 
too humans have the ability to enter into 
relationship with God and with other 
humans, and that this is what the image 
is. (However, this characteristic of the 
Godhead is not fully revealed until much 
later — e.g., John 1:1-5.) 

It may be that a correct understanding of the 
concept actually includes aspects of more 
than one of the above interpretations. A major 
point to be remembered is that we, as 
humans created in God’s image, are related 
to God in a special way that is not shared by 
other animal life. And as humans we need to 
remember that we all are bearers of that 

image — which, of course, should influence 
how we treat each other. 

There are points of similarity between the 
Babylonian and Assyrian creation stories and the 
Genesis account — for example, the sequence of the 
creative acts: expanse (firmament), dry land, 
celestial lights, humans. But the similarities do not 
prove dependence, although the simplicity of the 
Genesis account could argue for the Babylonian 
and Assyrian stories’ being corrupted traditions 
based on the simple, divine original. 

2. The Account of the Heavens 
and Earth, Genesis 2:4 to 4:26 

This is sometimes called the “second creation 
story.” It starts with a reference to the desolate 
condition of the earth (2:5-6), which corresponds 
to the early part of the third day in the first account 
(1:9-10), and then gives some details omitted from 

the first account. From there it proceeds with the 
story of the Fall. It is supplemental to, not in 
contradiction with, the first account. 

The man said, “This is now bone of my 
bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall 
be called ‘woman, ’ for she was taken out 
of man. ” For this reason a man will 
leave his father and mother and be 
united to his wife, and they will become 
one flesh. ” 

— Genesis 2:23-24 

Who was the original author of this document? 
It carries the story down to the sixth generation of 
Cain’s descendants (4:17-22) and closes while 
Adam was still alive. (He lived to the eighth 
generation of Seth’s descendants, 5:4-25.) So 
everything in this account happened in Adam’s 
lifetime. If writing was not invented while Adam 
was yet alive, may it not be that Adam told these 

things over and over in his family circle, so that at 
least their substance took a sort of fixed form until 
writing was invented? 

Gen. 2:4-17 THE GARDEN OF 

In chapter 1 the Creator is called “God” (Elohim), 
the “generic” name of the Supreme Being. Here it 
is “the Lord God” (Yahweh Elohim), His personal 
name. It is the first step in God’s revelation of 

No rain, but “streams” (vv. 5-6). The 
translation “mist” (KJY| NASB) would seem 
preferable. It would mean that for a while, the 
earth was watered by heavy fogs, because the 
earth’s surface was so warm, and consequent 
vapors so dense, that cooling raindrops on the far 
outer fringes of the clouds would turn to vapor 
again before they reached the earth. 

The tree of life (v. 9; 3:23) indicates that 
immortality is dependent on something outside 

ourselves. This tree will again be accessible to 
those who belong to Christ at the end (Revelation 
2:7; 22:2, 14). 

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil” 

(vv. 9, 17) was “good for food,” “pleasing to the 
eye,” and “desirable for gaining wisdom” (3:6). 
Whatever the exact nature of this tree — literal, 
figurative, or symbolic — the essence of Adam and 
Eve’s sin was this: they wanted to transfer control 
of their lives from God to themselves. God had, in 
substance, told them they could do anything they 
wanted to, except for that one thing. As long as 
they were in right relationship with God — in other 
words, as long as they recognized God as their 
creator and master — they experienced life as God 
had intended it to be, and they were truly the crown 
of God’s creation. They were completely satisfied 
with this life until Satan, in the form of a serpent, 
deceived them into thinking that if they were like 
God and knew what He knows, life would be even 
better. Once this seed of deception had been 
planted, they became dissatisfied. They wanted to 
“be like God.” They wanted to be their own master 

and sole master of God’s creation. Is that not the 
essence of human sin? From the beginning, God 
designed humans to live forever; the one condition 
was obedience to God. Adam and Eve allowed 
themselves to be deceived by the enemy and in turn 
disobeyed God. Then began the long, slow process 
of redemption, by a Savior through whom we may 
regain our lost estate. 

Gen. 2:18-25 THE CREATION OF 

It was already stated in 1:27 that man was created 
“male and female.” Here the way in which woman 
was created is more fully told. And here, at the 
start of the human race, is also found the divine 
origin and sanctity of marriage: one man, one 
woman, one flesh (v. 24). 

Scripture represents marriage as an earthly 
counterpart to the relationship between Christ and 
the church (Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 19:7; 
21:2, 9). The church is called the “bride” of 

Christ. Adam’s bride was made from his side, 
while he was asleep (vv. 21-22). This may be a 
primeval picture of the church, the bride of Christ, 
who receives its life from Him 

Naked but without shame (v. 25). It may be 
that they were “clothed” in the ethereal light of 
God, as Jesus was when He was transfigured 
(Mark 9:3), and that that light vanished when sin 
entered — but it will one day again clothe the 
redeemed (Revelation 3:4; 21:23). Of all God’s 
creatures, as far as we know, humanity alone 
wears clothing, a badge of our sinful nature and a 
symbol of our need for God’s redemptive 

The Location of the Garden 
of Eden 

The Garden of Eden was on the Euphrates 
and Tigris rivers, at their junction with the 
Pishon and Gihon (2:10-14). The Pishon and 

Gihon have not been identified. The Euphrates 
and Tigris originate in the Caucasus mountain 
region of southwest Asia, flow 
southeastward, and empty into the Persian 
Gulf (see map). Two possible locations have 
been suggested, one near the headwaters of 
the Tigris and Euphrates, the other near the 
mouth of the Euphrates in ancient Babylonia 
(see map: The Garden of Eden ). 


It was effected through the subtlety of the serpent. 
The serpent is represented as speaking itself. But 
later Scripture indicates that it was Satan speaking 
through the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3, 14; 
Revelation 12:9; 20:2). He managed to get Adam 
and Eve to disobey their Creator. The dreadful 
work was done. And the pall of sin and pain and 
death fell on a world that God had made beautiful 

and had pronounced good. 

Why Did God Make Humans So That They 
Could Sin? 

Is there any other way He could have made them? 
Could there be a moral creature without the power 
to choose? Freedom is God’s gift to humanity: 
freedom to think, freedom of conscience — even 
freedom to disobey God. 

In a train wreck, the engineer, who could have 
saved his life by jumping, stuck to his post and 
thereby saved the passengers, but lost his own life. 
They erected a monument, not to the train — it did 
only what its machinery forced it to do — but to the 
engineer, who, of his own volition, chose to give 
his life to save the passengers. 

What virtue is there in obeying God if in our 
nature there is no inclination to do otherwise? But 
if, of our own choice, and against the steady urge 
of our nature, we obey God, we find our true 

But Did Not God Foreknow That Man Would 


Yes — and He foreknew the fearful consequences. 
He also foreknew the ultimate outcome. We suffer, 
and we wonder why God has made such a world. 
But one day, after all has come to its final 
destination, our suffering will be over, and our 
questions will cease, and with the redeemed of all 
ages we will join in never-ending hallelujahs of 
praise to God for creating us as He did, and for 
leading us on to life, joy, and glory in the endless 
ages of eternity (Revelation 19: 1-8). 

The Effect of Sin on Nature 

Here, in the opening pages of the Bible, we have a 
primeval explanation of nature as it is today: on a 
mundane level, a common hatred of snakes (3:14- 
15); pain in childbirth (v. 15); and the earth’s 
spontaneous production of useless weeds, while 
food-bearing vegetation has to be cultivated (vv. 
17-19). But there are also foreshadowings of 
Christ in the offspring of the woman (v. 15) and in 
sacrifice and atonement (4:4). 

The offspring of the woman (v. 15). Here, 

immediately after the fall of man, is God’s 
prophecy that His creation of human beings would 
yet prove to be successful, through the “offspring 
of the woman.” This is the Bible’s first hint of a 
coming redeemer. The use of “he” (v. 15) shows 
that one person is meant. There has been only one 
descendant of Eve who was born of woman 
without the involvement of a man. Here, right at the 
start of the Bible story, is this first foreshadowing 
of Christ. And as the Bible story unfolds, there are 
other hints, pictures, and plain statements that 
become clearer and more abundant, so that, as we 
come to the end of the Old Testament, a fairly 
complete picture of Christ has been drawn. (See 
the chapter “The Messiah in the Old Testament.’” ) 

The Garden of Eden 

Other Traditions of the Fall 

Persian: Our first parents, innocent, 

virtuous, and happy, lived in a garden, 

where there was a tree of immortality, 
until an evil spirit in the form of a serpent 

• Hindu: In the first age, people were free 
from evil and disease, they had 
everything they wished for, and lived 

• Greek: The first people, in the golden 
age, were naked, free from evil and 
trouble, and enjoyed communion with the 

• Chinese: There was a happy age, when 
people had an abundance of food and 
were surrounded by peaceful animals. 

• Mongolians and Tibetans: Traditions 

similar to the Chinese. 

• Teutons: The primeval race enjoyed a life 
of perpetual festivity. 

The original story of the Garden of Eden was, 
no doubt, told by Adam to Methuselah, and by 
Methuselah to Noah, and by Noah to his sons. 

In later cultures it became variously modified. 

The mother of all the living (v. 20). The 
atonement of Christ is based on the unity of the 
race in Adam One man’s sin brought death. One 
man’s death brought redemption (Romans 5:12— 


Assuming that Adam and Eve were created full- 
grown, Cain, when he killed Abel, must have been 
about 129 years old; for Seth was born soon after 
(v. :25), at which time Adam was 130 (5:3). 

Abel’s sacrifice (v. 4) was acceptable because 
his actions were righteous (1 John 3:12) and 
because it was offered in faith (Hebrews 11:4). It 
seems that God had instituted such sacrifice when 
sin came into the world. It is a sort of primeval 
picture of the atoning death of Christ. 

Cain’s wife (v. 17) must have been his sister, 

for Eve was the “mother of all living” (3:20). 
Adam had unnamed sons and daughters (5:4); 
tradition says that he had 33 sons and 27 daughters. 

Who was there for Cain to be afraid of? (v. 
14). In the 130 years from Adam’s creation to 
Abel’s murder, a good many generations had been 
born, and the total population could have increased 
to many thousands. 

The mark on Cain (v. 15). Whatever it was, 
the people must have understood what it meant. 

Cain’s city (v. 17), somewhere east of Eden, 
was probably only a village of rude huts, with a 
wall for defense, to serve as a sort of headquarters 
for his outcast offspring. 

In Cain’s family, polygamy soon followed 
murder (v. 19). God had ordained in the beginning 
that one man and one woman live together in 
marriage (2:24). But man soon managed otherwise. 

3. The Account of Adam, 
Genesis 5:1 to 6:8 

This is the third document of the book of Genesis 
(see How Genesis Is Organized in the chapter on 
Genesis 1-11). It carries the story to the 500th year 
ofNoah’s life (5:32). 


The ages in this genealogy are extraordinarily long; 
for example: Adam, 930 years; Seth, 912 years; 
Methuselah, 969 years (the oldest person in the 
Bible); Noah, 950 years. The great age to which 
they lived is ordinarily explained on the theory that 
sin had only begun to have its malign i nf luence on 
the human race. 

When the numbers in this chapter are added 
together, there would appear to have been 1,656 
years between the creation of Adam and the Flood. 
Some think that, because this genealogy and the one 
in chapter 11 each has 10 generations, they may be 
abbreviated (as is the case in the genealogy of 
Jesus in Matthew 1). 

Enoch, vv. 21-24 

Enoch was the best of the first generations. In a 
society of unspeakable wickedness, he “walked 
with God.” Born 622 years after the creation of 
Adam, he was contemporary with Adam for 308 
years. “God took him” when he was only 365 
years old, 69 years before the birth of Noah. 

The only other person to be taken up by God 
without having to die was Elijah (2 Kings 2). 
Enoch and Elijah may have been intended by God 
to be a kind of foreshadowing of the happy fate of 
the saints who will also be taken up alive when the 
Lord returns (1 Thessalonians 4: 17). 

Methuselah, vv. 25-27 

At 969 years, he was the oldest of the 10 men 
listed in chapter 5. He was the son of Enoch. His 
life overlapped that of Adam by 243 years and that 
of Shem by 98 years, thus forming a connecting 
link between the Garden of Eden and the post- 
Flood world. He died the year of the Flood. 

Gen. 6:1-8 


The “sons of God” (v. 2) are thought to have been 
either fallen angels, to which there may be 
reference in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, or leaders in 
Sethite families who intermarried with godless 
descendants of Cain. These abnormal marriages, 
whatever they were, filled the earth with 
corruption and violence. 

Jesus regarded the Flood as a historical fact, 
and He likened the time of His coming again to the 
days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39). What is going 
on in the world today makes us wonder if those 
days may be returning. 

The 120 years in v. 3 may refer to the time left 
before the Flood or a reduced life span after the 
longevity of those mentioned in chapter 5. 

4. The Account of Noah, Genesis 
6:9 to 9:28 

This is the fourth document in the book of Genesis 
(see How Genesis Is Organized in the chapter on 
Genesis 1-11). It contains the story of the Flood, 
as told, and perhaps recorded, by Noah, and 
handed on by Shem to Abraham. 

Gen. 6:9-18 NOAH AND THE 

The ark was about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 
feet high. It had three decks, divided into 
compartments, with a row of windows around the 
top. It must have been very similar in size and 
proportion to ocean ships of today. With man being 
situated on the banks of a great river, boat building 
was one of his earliest accomplishments. 
Cuneiform tablets indicate that at the dawn of 
history the inhabitants of Babylonia engaged in 
transport by river. If this is true, then boat building 
and river traffic may have been familiar to Noah 
from childhood. 

According to the dimensions given in Genesis, 

the ark was for at least five millennia the largest 
ship ever built — until 1858, when the 669-foot- 
long Great Eastern was built. 

i l 

Gen. 6:19-7:5 THE ANIMALS 

In 6: 19-21 and 7:2 it is explained that seven pairs 
of clean animals, but only one pair of each of the 
others, were to be taken into the ark. Some have 
calculated that there was room in the ark for 7000 
species of animals. 

It was a gigantic task to build the ark, gather 
the animals, and store the necessary food. Noah 
and his three sons could not have done it alone. 
Being the grandson of Methuselah and great 
grandson of Enoch, Noah may, as the Babylonian 
tradition says, have been a city-king and may have 
employed thousands of men in the work. It was 
undoubtedly the subject of constant ridicule, but 
Noah persisted in faith (2 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 

Perhaps the ark is also a symbol of our 

salvation in Jesus. Noah, his family, and the 
animals all passed through the door of the ark 
(7:13). The door is a common symbol of Christ 
(Matthew 7:7; 2 Corinthians 2:12). Verse 16 states 
that “the Lord shut him in” — Noah and his family 
could not have saved themselves. We, like Noah, 
are saved by God’s grace. We merely must pass 
through the door. 

Other Flood Traditions 

Traditions of a catastrophic flood are found in 
many ancient cultures: 

• Egyptian tradition: The gods at one time 
purified the earth by a great flood, from 
which only a few shepherds escaped. 

• Greek tradition: Deucalion warned that 
the gods were going to bring a flood 
upon the earth because of its great 
wickedness; he built an ark, which came 
to rest on Mount Parnassus. A dove was 

sent out twice. 

Hindu tradition: Manu, warned, built a 
ship in which he alone escaped from a 
deluge that destroyed all creatures. 
Chinese tradition: Fa-He, founder of 

Chinese civilization, is represented as 
having escaped from a flood — sent 
because man had rebelled against 
heaven — with his wife, three sons, and 
three daughters. 

English tradition: The Druids had a legend 
that the world had been re-peopled by a 
righteous patriarch who had been saved 
in a strong ship from a flood sent to 
destroy man for his wickedness. 
Polynesian tradition: Stories of a Flood 
from which eight escaped. 

Mexican tradition: One man and his wife 
and children were saved in a ship from a 
flood which overwhelmed the earth. 
Peruvian tradition: One man and one 
woman were saved in a box that floated 

on the flood waters. 

• Native American tradition: Various 

legends, in which one, three, or eight 
persons were saved in a boat above the 
waters on a high mountain. 

• Greenland tradition: The earth once tilted 
over, and all men were drowned, except 
one man and one woman, who re- 
peopled the earth. 

Gen. 7:6-8:19 THE FLOOD 

“On that day all the springs of the great deep burst 
forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were 
opened” (7:11). The Euphrates Valley might almost 
be called the Isthmus of the Eastern Hemisphere, 
where the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean 
approach each other (as the Atlantic and Pacific 
Oceans come close together at the Isthmus of 

Panama). The Armenian mountain country is 
almost like an island system, with the Caspian and 
Black seas on the north, the Mediterranean on the 
west, and the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean on the 
south. A cataclysmic subsidence of the region 
would cause the waters to pour in from these seas, 
as rain poured down from above. 

Gen. 8:20-9:17 THE RAINBOW 

It may be that the Flood produced a clarified air 
that made the Rainbow clearly visible. And God 
designated it as the sign of His covenant with 
mankind that there would never be another Flood 
(9:8-17). The earth’s next destruction will be by 
fire (2 Peter 3:7). 

Gen. 9:18-28 NOAH’S 

Noah curses Ham and blesses Shem and Japheth. 

This “curse on Ham” has often been used against 
people of non-white races, especially black 
people. It has been used to support the supposed 
superiority of the white race as well as a 
justification for slavery and all kinds of 

How Much Time Did Noah 
Spend in the Ark? 

• Noah went into the ark seven days 
before it began to rain (7:4, 10). 

• It began to rain on the 17th day of the 
2nd month of Noah’s 600th year (7:11). It 
rained for 40 days (7:12). 

• The waters flooded the earth for 150 
days (7:24; 8:3). 

• The ark came to rest on the 17th day of 
the 7th month (8:4). 

• Noah removed the ark’s covering on the 

1st day of the 1st month of Noah’s 601st 
year (8:13). 

• Noah and his family went out of the ark 
on the 27th day of the 2nd month (8:1 4— 

• This means that they were in the ark for 
1 year and 17 days (5 months floating, 7 
months on the mountain). 

Has Noah’s Ark Been Found? 

In recent years, several reports have been 
published claiming that the remains of Noah’s 
ark have been found, high up in the Ararat 
mountains. While it is tempting to accept 
these reports as supporting the historical 
truthfulness of the Bible, to date none of the 
reports has provided any concrete evidence 
(other than photographs that would not lead 

anyone to suspect that they showed the ark 
unless one were specifically looking for it). On 
the contrary: one thing these reports seem to 
have in common is that for one reason or 
another, any concrete evidence — such as a 
piece of wood from the ark — has regrettably 
disappeared or been lost. Until an 
incontrovertible case with evidence has been 
made that Noah’s ark has indeed been found, 
it remains lost. 

The credibility of the Word of God is not 
helped by questionable “proofs” that lack 
factual integrity. The Word of God in its full 
integrity is its own best defense! 

But Noah speaks about Canaan (another name 
for Ham). For the Israelites, who received this 
book from Moses as they were on their way to the 
Promised Land — that is, Canaan — Noah’s 

prophecy was an encouragement: God, through 
Noah, had placed a curse on the Canaanites. The 

Israelites could therefore advance without fear, 
since God would give the Canaanites into their 
hands. This is underscored by the blessings on 
Shem and Japheth: “Blessed be the Lord, the God 
of Shem!” and “May God extend . . (vv. 26-27). 
The Israelites, as descendants of Shem, could rely 
on God’s presence. 

It is difficult to define the “Canaanites” as a 
specific racial group. Their language, like Hebrew, 
was Semitic, but their origins appear to have been 
diverse. They were unified by what can be spoken 
of as a Canaanite culture. 

5. The Account of the Sons of 
Noah, Genesis 10:1 to 11:9 

The fifth document of Genesis (see How Genesis 
Is Organized in the chapter on Genesis 1-11), 
prepared, probably, by Shem and handed on to 
Abraham; Shem lived from 98 years before the 
Flood until 150 years after the birth of Abraham 


Noah’s family disembarked from the ark on Mount 
Ararat, near the headwaters of the Euphrates. Then, 
it seems, they migrated back, 500 miles, to 
Babylonia, their pre-Flood home. Then, 100 years 
later (v. 25), they were scattered by the confusion 
of languages. 

The descendants of Japheth (w. 2-5) went 
northward, settled in regions around the Black and 
Caspian seas; and became progenitors of the 
Caucasian races of Europe and Asia. 

The descendants of Ham (vv. 6-20) went 
southward. The names given seem to indicate south 
and central Arabia, Egypt, the eastern shore of the 
Mediterranean, and the east coast of Africa. 
Canaan, son of Ham, and his descendants settled, 
and gave their name to, the land which later 
became the homeland of the Jews. 

The descendants of Shem (vv. 21-31; 

Shemites or Semites) included Jews, Assyrians, 
Syrians, and Elamites in the northern Euphrates 
Valley and its borders. 

Nimrod (vv. 8-12) was the most outstanding 
leader in the 400 years between the Flood and 
Abraham, Grandson of Ham (v. 8) and born soon 
after the Flood, he may have lived through the 
whole period (judging from the ages mentioned in 
1 1 : 10-16). He was a very enterprising man. 

His fame as a “mighty hunter” (v. 9) meant that 
he was protector of the people at a time when wild 
animals were a continual menace. Early 
Babylonian seals represented a king in combat 
with a lion; this may be a tradition of Nimrod. 

In his ambition to control the rapidly 
multiplying and spreading race, he seems to have 
been leader in the building of the Tower of Babel 
(v. 10; 11:9). And after the confusion of languages 
and the dispersion of the people, Nimrod seems 
later to have resumed work on Babylon. Then he 
built three nearby cities — Erech, Akkad, and 
Calneh — and consolidated them into one kingdom 
under his own rule. Babylonia was long known as 

“the Land of Nimrod.” 

Still ambitious to control the ever-spreading 
race, Nimrod went 300 miles faurther north and 
founded Nineveh (though one version says it was 
Asshur) and three nearby cities: Rehoboth Ir, 
Calah, and Resen. This constituted Nimrod’s 
northern kingdom. For many centuries afterward, 
these two cities, Babylon and Nineveh, founded by 
Nimrod, were the leading cities of the world. 

Gen. 11:1-9 THE TOWER OF 

The confusion of languages occurred in the fourth 
generation after the Flood, about the time of the 
birth of Peleg (10:25), which was 101 years after 
the Flood and 326 years before the call of 
Abraham (10:26). It was God’s method of 
dispersing the race so that the kingdom man was 
creating would never exclude God’s kingdom. 

As God scattered the people “over the face of the whole earth' 

after Babel, cultures developed and travel and commerce 
grew. One can imagine that the generations from Shem to 
Abram used caravanserai such as this one: an inn near an 
oasis in one of the desert areas of the Middle East. There is no 
roof for protection from the sparse rainfall, but there are walls 
to keep out wild animals and marauders. 

For many years it was believed that the Tower 
of Babel looked like a Babylonian ziggurat, a type 
of stepped tower. But the ziggurats evolved from 
simpler religious structures, and the final form of 
the ziggurat did not appear in Mesopotamia until 
well into the third millennium B.c, — when there 
were already many different languages. 

Whatever the exact historical event may have 
been like, the purpose behind the Tower of Babel 
was similar to that of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. 
The people wanted to build a migdal, a fortified 
city, with “a tower that reaches the heavens” (vv. 
3-4) — that is, they wanted to be autonomous and 
grab divine power. They wanted to transcend their 
human limitations. 

The significance of the Tower of Babel 
becomes clear when we look at it in contrast to the 

Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), which is its 

Genesis 11: Babel, the city built by people 
Acts 2: Jerusalem, the city of God 
Genesis 11: The people reach for heaven 
Acts 2: God the Spirit descends from heaven 
Genesis 11: Languages are confused; people 
no longer can understand each other 
Acts 2: A single language is understood by 
all those present 

Genesis 11: The people are scattered 
Acts 2: The people come from all over 

6. The Account of Shem, 
Genesis 11:10-26 

The sixth document in the book of Genesis (see 
How Genesis Is Organized in the chapter on 
Genesis 1-11). In 10:21-31, Shem’s descendants 
are named. Here the line is carried straight from 
Shem to Abraham, covering 10 generations (427 
years). Shem himself may have recorded this entire 

genealogy, for his life spanned the entire period it 

According to these figures: 

• It was 1,656 years from Adam to the Flood; 
427 years from the Flood to Abraham, 

• Adam’s life overlapped Methuselah’s by 243 

• Methuselah’s life overlapped Noah’s by 600 
years, Shem’s by 98 years. 

Age at 
son's birth 




Age at 
's birth 










born after Flood 












































Noah, at Flood 









entered Canaan 




There were 126 years between the death of 
Adam and the birth of Noah. 

• Noah lived 350 years after the Flood; he died 
two years before birth of Abraham 

• Shem lived from 98 years before the Flood 
until 502 years after the Flood. 

• Shem lived until 75 years after Abraham 
entered Canaan. 

• Noah lived to see the 9th generation of his 
own descendants. 

• In the righthand column, all but Peleg and 
Nahor were alive at the birth of Abraham. 

In a period of such longevity, the population 
increased very rapidly, although the ages became 
gradually shorter after the Flood. 

Genesis 12-50 

The stories of God’s dealings with Abraham, 
Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (the ancestors of the 
Israelite people who are also called the patriarchs 
of Israel) are recorded in Genesis 12-50. A major 
focus of these narratives is the multifaceted 
promise that God gave them and reiterated to them. 
This promise provides a significant framework for 
God’s continuing dealings with humanity (see The 
Call of Abraham in Genesis 12-50). 

According to the plain reading of passages 
such as 1 Kings 6:1, Exodus 12:40, and others, 
Abraham would have entered the land of Canaan in 
2091 B.c. at age 75 — about midway through the 
archaeological period known as Middle Bronze I 
(2200-2000 B.c.). The thriving commercial center 
of Ur, located in southern Mesopotamia, that 
Abraham had left earlier is quite well-known due 

to the excavations of the site and to the thousands 
of cuneiform tablets that have been found at Ur and 
in its vicinity. 

The land of Canaan that Abram entered with 
Sarah and his nephew Lot was not nearly as 
progressive. During this period people lived in 
tents in very small, unwalled settlements (most less 
than three acres in size). There is, in fact, in the 
archaeological record of Palestine a complete 
absence of walled cities during this time. 
Archaeologically, this period seems to be 
characterized by people living in tents and burying 
their dead in shaft-type tombs, in tumuli (artificial 
mounds), or under dolmens (two or more stones 
placed upright with a stone put horizontally on 
top). This fits well with the biblical portrayal of 
the Patriarchs as living in tents (mentioned 24 
times in Genesis 12-50) and making a living by 
herding (sheep and goats are mentioned 24 times) 
and farming (sowing and reaping in 26: 12). 

At the time of Abraham’s death in 1991 B.c., 
the land of Canaan was moving into the Middle 
Bronze II period (2000-1550 B.c,). During this 

period large fortified cities were again built, 
although it is probable that the majority of the 
population continued to live in the countryside as 
herders and farmers. The Egyptian story of Sinuhe 
(which can be found in Ancient Near Eastern 
Texts 18-23) dates from about 1962 B.c. (during 
the days of Isaac); it describes Canaan as a land 
filled with figs, grapes, wine, honey, olives, fruit, 
barley, wheat, and cattle (compare Deuteronomy 
8 : 8 ). 

At the time of Jacob’s move to Egypt (1876 
B.c,), that country was experiencing a time of 
stability during the 12th Dynasty. At a minimum it 
maintained commercial contacts with peoples in 
the eastern Mediterranean region as well as those 
to its south, in Nubia. Unfortunately, no 
extrabiblical records have been found as yet that 
refer to any of the people mentioned in this section 
of Scripture. 

Mesopotamia, too, was experiencing a period 
of prosperity at this time (called the Old 
Babylonian period). It was during this time that the 
famous Hammurabi ruled, who is known 

especially for his laws, known as the Code of 
Hammurabi. In addition to written documents 
found in southern Mesopotamia, a huge cuneiform 
archive was discovered at Mari, located farther 
north on the Euphrates. The Mari tablets actually 
mention several of the more prominent city-states 
in Canaan: Hazor (175 acres in size) and Leshem 
(later known as Dan; Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:29). 
In addition, some of the personal names (though not 
the people themselves) found in the Mari tablets 
parallel names mentioned in the biblical text, and 
the political alliances, tribal background reflected 
in the tablets do help illustrate the general lifestyle 
of the people during this period. 

A dolmen, used for burial, in the Golan Heights. Dolmens 
similar to this (standing stones capped by a horizontal stone) 
have also been found in Europe, especially in Britain and 

Biblical Dates 

2091 b.c. Abram entered Canaan 
2066 b.c. Isaac born 
2006 b.c. Jacob born 

1991 b.c. Abraham died 

1886 b.c. Isaac died 

1876 b.c. Jacob moved to Egypt 

Dates for Palestine 

(Periods in Palestinian history are named 
after materials used.) 

2200-2000 b.c. (Middle Bronze I) 

People lived mostly in tents. There were 
no significant cities. The dead were 
placed in tombs, on dolmens (two or 
more vertical slabs of rock with a 
horizontal rock on top; see photo of a 
dolmen , used for burial), or in tumuli 
(artificial mounds). 

2000-1550 b.c. (Middle Bronze II) 

Larger cities were established. Well- 
preserved city gates from this period 
have been found at Dan and Ashkelon. 
Palestine had international contacts with 

both Mesopotamia and Egypt. 

Egyptian Dates 

(Periods in Egyptian history are defined 
largely by the pharaonic dynasties.) 

2160-2010 b.c. (First Intermediate 
Period: Dynasties IX and X) 

A time of instability in Egypt. Abraham 
visited Egypt during this period (Genesis 
12 : 10 - 20 ). 

2106-1786 b.c. (Middle Kingdom: 
Dynasties XI and especially XII. 
The periods overlap, since for a 
period of time Egypt was a 
divided country) 

A time of stability and prosperity in 
Egypt. Joseph and then Jacob and 
children moved to Egypt. 

1786-1550 b.c. (Second Intermediate 
Period: Dynasties XIV-XVII) 

The oppression of Israel probably began 
during dynasties XV and XVI (the Hyksos 
dynasties; Exodus 1:8-9). 

Genesis 12-50 

The Beginning of the Story of Redemption 
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph 

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your 
country, your people and your father’s 
household and go to the land I will show 
you. I will make you into a great nation and 
I will bless you; I will make your name 
great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless 
those who bless you, and whoever curses 
you I will curse; and all peoples on earth 
will be blessed through you. ” 

— Genesis 12 : 1-3 

After this, the word of the Lord came to 
Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, 

Abram. I am your shield, your very great 
reward. . . . Look up at the heavens and 
count the stars — if indeed you can count 
them. ” Then he said to him, “So shall your 
offspring be. ” Abram believed the Lord, and 
he credited it to him as righteousness. 

— Genesis 15 : 1 , 5-6 

7. The Account of Terah, 
Genesis 11:27 to 25:11 

The story of Abraham, recorded, probably, by 
Abraham and Isaac. The last verses of chapter 11 
provide the genealogical link between Terah and 
Abraham, while the actual story of Abraham 
begins in chapter 12. 

Gen. 12:1-3 THE CALL OF 

Here begins the story of redemption. It had been 

hinted at in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). 
Now, 400 years after the Flood, God calls 
Abraham to be the founder of a nation through 
which He would make the reclamation and 
redemption of mankind a reality. 

God promised Abraham, a righteous man who 
believed in God, not in the idols of those around 
him, that his descendants would 

1 . Inherit the land of Canaan 

2. Become a great nation 

3. Be a blessing to all nations 

This promise (12:2-3; 22:18) is the foundation 
for the rest of the Bible. God first called Abraham 
in Ur (Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:2-4), and again in 
Haran (12:1-4), Shechem (12:7), Bethel (13:1 4— 
17), and twice in Hebron (15:5, 18; 17:1-8). The 
promise was repeated to his son Isaac (26:3-4) 
and to his grandson Jacob (28:13-14; 35:11-12; 
46:3-4). These same promises are also found later 
in God’s covenant with David (see on 2 Samuel 7). 

It seems, from 11:26, 32; 12:4; and Acts 7:2-4, 

that Abraham was born when his father was 130 
years old, and that he was not the firstborn, as may 
be inferred from 11:6. He was 75 when he entered 
Canaan, about 80 when he rescued Lot and met 
Melchizedek, 86 when Ishmael was born, 99 when 
Sodom was destroyed, 100 when Isaac was born, 
137 when Sarah died, and 160 when Jacob was 
born. He died at 175, which was 115 years before 
Jacob’s migration to Egypt. 


“I will make you into a great nation” (you 
will have numerous descendants) — Genesis 
12:2; 13:16; 15:18; etal. 

“I will bless you” — Genesis 12:2 
“I will make your name great” — Genesis 12:2 
“You will be a blessing” — Genesis 12:2 
“I will bless those who bless you” — Genesis 

“Whoever curses you I will curse” — Genesis 

Divine blessing for Jews as well as Gentiles 
— Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 26:4 (see Galatians 

Your descendants will occupy Canaan — 
Genesis 15:18; 17:8 

The promise is eternal — Genesis 13:15; 
17:7-8, 13, 19; 48:4 

Kings will descend from you — Genesis 17:6, 

God will be Israel’s God forever — Genesis 

Gen. 12:4-9 ABRAHAM’S 

(See map: Abraham’s Journey from Ur to 

Haran, about 600 miles northwest of Ur and 
400 miles northeast of Canaan, was Abraham’s 
first stopping place. He had set out from Ur in 
search of a land where he could build a nation free 
from idolatry, not knowing where he would end up 

(Hebrews 11:8). But Haran was already a well- 
settled region, with roads to Babylon, Assyria, 
Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt, along which 
caravans and armies constantly marched. So, after 
the death of his father, Terah, Abraham, under the 
call of God, moved on in search of a more sparsely 
settled land. 

Shechem, Abraham’s first stopping place in 
Canaan, in the center of the land, was in a beautiful 
valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. 
Here Abraham built an altar to God, but soon he 
moved on south in further exploration of the land. 

Bethel, 20 miles south of Shechem and 10 
miles north of Jerusalem, was Abraham’s next 
stopping place. It was one of the highest points in 
Canaan, with a magnificent view in every 
direction. Abraham was following the ridge of the 
mountain range, probably because the Jordan 

Valley on the east and the Coastal Plain on the west 
were already pretty well settled. In Bethel, too, he 
built an altar, as he did later at Hebron, and as he 
had done at Shechem, not only as an 
acknowledgement to God, but also as a statement 
of his faith to the people among whom he had come 
to live. He must have liked Bethel; for that is 
where he settled when he returned from Egypt, 
until he and Lot separated (chap. 13). 

Gen. 12:10-20 ABRAHAM IN 

As he traveled on south from Bethel, Abraham 
must have passed close to Jerusalem Because of a 
famine, he went to Egypt, to stay there until the 
famine was over. He managed to get himself into 
trouble in Egypt. His wife Sarah was beautiful, and 
powerful rulers had a practice of confiscating 
beautiful women for themselves and killing their 
husbands. His cautious subterfuge of calling Sarah 
his “sister” was not exactly a lie. She was his half- 

sister (20:12). Marriages between near relatives 
was common in early ages until the growth of 
families offered wider selection. 


Lot was Abraham’s nephew. They had been 
together since they had left Ur many years before. 
But now their flocks and herds had become so 
extensive, and their herdsmen so quarrelsome over 
pasture lands, that it seemed best to separate. 
Abraham magnanimously gave Lot his choice of all 
the land. Lot foolishly chose the Plain of Sodom. 
Abraham chose Hebron, which was his home from 
then on. 

When Abraham went to Egypt, the pyramids, including the 
famous pyramids at Gizah (bottom), were already almost half 
a millennium old. 

Not all early attempts at pyramid building in the 26th century 
B.C. were successful. The earliest pyramid is the so-called 
step pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser (top), which was a stable 
structure. But the pyramid at Maidum, which was probably 
completed by Pharaoh Snofru of the 3rd Dynasty, was a 

different matter. The core was a large, eight-step pyramid. 
Around this core, fill was added to create a true pyramid, with 
an outer casing. Through a combination of design and 
construction problems, the outer part of the pyramid collapsed 
at some point, leaving the core surrounded by a mound of 

The “bent” pyramid at Dashur (center) is the result of a design 
change after part of the pyramid had been built, perhaps 
occasioned by the collapse of the Maidum pyramid. The sides 
in the original design were apparently too steep. 

Abraham’s Visit to Egypt 

It is well known from Egyptian inscriptions and 
artwork that throughout Egypt’s history, 
“Asiatics” from Canaan entered Egypt for 
various reasons. From the days of the 
Patriarchs, dating from perhaps just a few 
years before Joseph entered Egypt (ca. 1891 
b.c.), we have the painting on the wall of the 
tomb of Khum-hotep III that depicts 37 
Asiatics entering Egypt for trading purposes. 

The colorful dress of both men and women 
are well represented. However, it is not 
necessary to draw the conclusion from this 
that the Patriarchs were merchant/traders, for 
Asiatics entered Egypt for many reasons, 
including getting food and water for their 
families and flocks. 


Abraham wanted to rescue Lot and must have been 
something of a military genius. With 318 men of his 
own and some help from his neighbors, he sent 
these four kings running by means of a midnight 
surprise attack. Armies then were small, and 
“kings” were in effect tribal princes. Abraham was 
a sort of king, perhaps the head of a sizable clan. 

A modern Bedouin tent, probably not unlike the tents Abraham 
lived in. The tent was (and in parts of the Near East still is) the 
most convenient and logical home for a nonsedentary people. 
It does not necessarily reflect a primitive lifestyle nor poverty 
and absence of luxury: Abraham was a wealthy man. 

The kings mentioned in Genesis 14 are known 
only from the biblical text. (The attempted equation 
of biblical Amraphel with the Babylonian king 
Hammurabi is not very plausible.) It is known, 
from cuneiform documents found at Mari and 
elsewhere, that during the patriarchal period, 
various kings often made alliances in fighting 
against other kings — a situation that is reflected in 
Genesis 14. 

Under the protective roof is what remains of the gate of the city 
of Dan of Abraham’s day. Abraham pursued the kings who had 
taken his nephew Lot captive “as far as Dan.” Little did 
Abraham know that some of his descendants (the northern 
kingdom) would later go “as far as Dan” to worship a golden 
calf there, rather than the true God (1 Kings 12:30). 

Melchizedek, 14:18-20 

The priest-king of Salem (Jerusalem). Hebrew 
tradition says that he was Shem, the son of Noah 
and survivor of the Flood, who was still alive — 
earth’s oldest living man. He was a priest, in the 
patriarchal age, of the whole race. If so, it is a hint 
that God had already chosen, right after the Flood, 
Jerusalem to be the scene of human redemption. 

Whoever he was, as both a priest and king, 
Melchizedek was a picture and “type” of Christ 
(Psalm 110; Hebrews 5-7). We do know that he 
conferred a blessing on Abraham and that 
Abraham’s response was to give him tithes, which 
was a tenth part of everything he possessed. Many 
Christians today follow Abraham’s example by 
offering their tithes to God through their churches 
and other ministries. Surely they, too, receive 
God’s blessings. 

Gen. 15-17 GOD’S PROMISES 

God renewed His covenant with Abraham 
graphically through the ancient custom of passing 
between the pieces of sacrificed animals. This 
solemn action signified an oath between the parties 
of covenant that “May it be so done to me if I do 
not keep my oath and pledge.” 

The promises include the prediction that before 
his descendants would actually live in Canaan, 

they would spend 400 years in a foreign land 
(15:13), meaning Egypt. In addition, when 
Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90, Isaac was 
promised. Their impatience with regard to God’s 
fulfillment of this promise prompted them to ask 
the assistance of their maidservant, Hagar. This 
was the custom of the day, to ensure the birth of a 
male heir. Thirteen years later, God reminded 
Abraham that he needed to keep his part of the 
covenant. Ultimately, God’s will and promise was 
manifested in the birth of Isaac. The name “Isaac” 
means “he laughs” — a name given by God quite 
possibly in response to Abraham and Sarah’s 
initial disbelief (17: 17; 18:12). 

God also instituted circumcision as the symbol 
of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants, 
a physical marking of Abraham’s male descendants 
as belonging to God’s nation. 

It is interesting to note that the Arabs, who 
consider themselves descendants of Ishmael, are 

circumcised at the age of 13. To this people and to 
others, circumcision serves as a rite of passage 
from childhood to manhood. 

Gen. 18-19 SODOM AND 

These two cities were cesspools of evil. They 
were located not very far from Hebron, the home 
of Abraham, and from Jerusalem, the home of 
Melchizedek. It had been only 400 years since the 
Flood, almost within the memory of people then 
living. Yet they had forgotten the lesson of that 
cataclysmic destruction of the race. And God 
“rained down burning sulfur” on these two cities, 
to refresh men’s memories and to warn of the 
wrath of God that is in store for the wicked — and, 
perhaps, also to serve as a foreshadowing of 
earth’s final doom in a holocaust of fire (2 Peter 
2:5-6; 3:7, 10; and Revelation 8:5, 7; 9:17-18; 

Jesus compared the time of His return to the 

days of Sodom (Luke 17:26-32) and to the days 
before the Flood. Both were periods of 
unspeakable wickedness. Today, with greed, 
brutality, crime, and racial and religious co nf lict 
rampant on a scale never before known in history, 
it does not require much imagination to see the end 
toward which we are heading, however much good 
men and statesmen may try to avert it. Unless there 
comes a worldwide movement of repentance, the 
day of doom may not be far off. 

The sons born to Lot’s daughters (vv. 37-38) 
began the lineage of the Moabites and Ammonites, 
who became bitter enemies of Abraham’s 
descendants (1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Chronicles 20:1). 

Gomorrah. The exact locations of Sodom and 
Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar (see 
Genesis 14) are not known. Scholars have usually 
looked for sites near the southern end of the Dead 
Sea, where the name “Zoar” was preserved into 
the Byzantine Period (4th-6th century a.d.). The 
Dead Sea lies at 1,300 feet below sea level — the 

lowest spot on earth. The surrounding area is a 
desolate landscape with numerous salt formations. 
In addition, black masses of bitumen float to the 
surface, and some have suggested that these 
factors, along with seismic activity, may have led 
to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Although serious searches have been made, no 
certain identification has been confirmed. There do 
not appear to be any remains under the southern 
end of the Dead Sea — the level of which has been 
dropping in recent years — contrary to what some 
biblical students have suggested. Along the 
southeastern end of the Dead Sea there are five 
large antiquity sites which date to the Early Bronze 
Age (3150-2200 B.c.): Bab edh-Dhra, Numeira, 
Zoar, Feifa, and Khanazir. Several of these sites 
had massive fortifications, and Early Bronze 
burials in the region are said to number over 
500,000 persons! On the surface of several of the 
sites is a spongy, black, charcoal-like substance 
that some have tried to relate to the destruction of 
Sodom and Gomorrah. At the present time, 
although there are five sites, just as there are five 

cities mentioned in Genesis 14, it is difficult to 
maintain that these are the five “cities of the plain” 
mentioned in Genesis, since archaeologically they 
must be dated prior to the age of the Patriarchs on 
almost any dating scheme used. 

Gen. 20 SARAH AND 

Although Hebron was his main home, Abraham 
from time to time moved from place to place in 
search of pasture for his herds. In Gerar, a 
Philistine city some 40 miles west of Hebron near 
the seacoast, he had another experience like the 
one he had had with Pharaoh (12:10-20). Sarah 
must have been extremely beautiful to attract the 
attention of kings, especially considering her age. 
Isaac and Rebekah had a similar experience in 
Gerar with a later Philistine king also named 
Abimelech (chap. 26). 


Ishmael, at the time, was about 15 years old (vv. 5, 
8; 16:16). The apostle Paul used the story of these 
two children as an allegory of the Mosaic and 
Christian covenants (the old and new covenants, 
Galatians 4:21-31). 

Beersheba (vv. 30-31), where Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob lived much of the time, was at the 
southernmost border of Canaan, some 20 miles 
southwest of Hebron and about 150 miles from 
Egypt. It was a place of “seven wells.” Wells in a 
semi-desert country like that were priceless 


It was a test of Abraham’s faith. Note that God did 
not “tempt” him God does not tempt (James 1:13), 
but rather tests us to confirm our faith (Exodus 
20:20) or prove our commitment to Him 

(Deuteronomy 8:2). Satan, on the other hand, 
tempts us (1 Corinthians 7:5) in an attempt to make 
us fall and to pull us away from the will of God in 
our lives. 

God had promised that Isaac would be the 
father of nations (17:16). Yet, here God commands 
that Isaac be killed before he had any children. 
Abraham had faith that God would provide an 
alternate sacrifice or bring Isaac back to life 
(Hebrews 11:19). We do not know how God made 
the command known to Abraham, but that it was 
the voice of God Abraham could not have doubted, 
for he certainly would not have set out to perform a 
task so cruel and revolting without being certain 
that God had commanded it. The idea originated 
with God, not with Abraham 

The offering of Isaac was a foreshadowing of 
the death of Christ. A father offering his only son 
(Isaac was the “only son” of the promise, 21:12). 
The son dead for three days (in Abraham’s mind, v. 
4). A substitution. An actual sacrifice. And this 
took place on Mount Moriah, the very same place 
where 2000 years later God’s own Son was 

offered. Thus it was a foreshadowing, here at the 
birth of the Hebrew nation, of the grand event the 
nation was born to bring about. 


Although the exact location of Abraham’s attempt 
to sacrifice Isaac is not known, v. 2 says it was in 
“the region of Moriah.” The writer of Chronicles 
(2 Chronicles 3:1) indicates that it was at, or near, 
that same site where Solomon later built the first 
temple. Today a Moslem shrine, the Dome of the 
Rock, erected in a.d. 691, stands over the highest 
piece of bedrock in the area. It preserves the above 
traditions as well as the Moslem tradition that this 
is the spot from which Muhammed made his night 
journey to heaven. 


At Hebron, in the city gate, Abraham purchased the 
cave of Machpelah to bury his wife, Sarah. Today, 
in the older part of Hebron, is a large structure 

called the Cave of Machpelah, a place sacred to 
Jews, Christians, and Moslems and currently 
inaccessible to all. The exterior of the structure is 
composed of large Herodian stones (37-4 B.c,), 
and inside that enclosure are the remains of a 
Byzantine/Crusader church, a mosque, and a 
synagogue. There are three pairs of cenotaphs 
(above-ground monuments): a pair for Abraham 
and Sarah; a pair for Isaac and Rebecca; and a pair 
for Jacob and Leah. The underground chambers 
have not been completely investigated, or reported 
on, but the visible stone work there also seems to 
be Herodian. 

The exterior of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. 
According to tradition, it is built on the location of the Cave of 
Machpelah. The massive outside walls date back to Herod the 
Great and give us a clue as to how the outside walls of the 
temple area may originally have looked. 


Rebekah was Isaac’s second cousin. Abraham’s 
purpose in sending his chief servant (probably 
Eliezer of Damascus; see 15:2) back to his own 
people for a wife for Isaac was to keep his 
descendants free from idolatry. If Isaac had 
married a Canaanite girl, how different the whole 
history of Israel might have been. What a lesson 
for young people in the matter of choosing a mate! 

Gen. 25:1-11 ABRAHAM’S 

Sarah had died at the age of 127, at which time 
Abraham was 137. He lived for 38 years after that, 
in which time he married Keturah. She bore him 
six sons, of whom came the Midianites. Five 
hundred years later, Moses would marry a 
Midianite woman (Exodus 2:16-21). On the 
whole, Abraham was the “greatest, purest, and 
most venerable of the patriarchs, revered by Jews, 
Mohammedans and Christians,” friend of God, 
father of the faithful. Generous, unselfish, yet fully 
human. A man of great character, with unbounded 
trust in God. 

8. The Account of Ishmael, 
Genesis 25:12-18 

The eighth document of Genesis (see How Genesis 
Is Organized in the chapter on Genesis 1-11). 
Ishmael was Abraham’s son by Hagar, Sarah’s 
Egyptian servant (chap. 16). The Ishmaelites made 
Arabia their home and became known generally as 
Arabians. Thus Abraham was the father of the 

present Arab world. Rivalry between Isaac and 
Ishmael has persisted through the centuries in the 
antagonism between Jews and Arabs. 

9. The Account of Isaac, Genesis 
25:19 to 35:29 

The ninth document of Genesis (see How Genesis 
Is Organized in the chapter on Genesis 1-11). It 
contains the story of Isaac and Jacob, handed down 
by Jacob to his sons. 

Gen. 25:19-34 BIRTH OF JACOB 

Esau, the firstborn, was Isaac’s natural heir, who 
would inherit the promises God had made to 
Abraham. But God, knowing before they were born 
the qualities of the two men, chose Jacob to be 
transmitter of the precious heritage; He hinted at 
this to their mother (v. 23), and it was the 

background of Jacob’s deal with Esau (v. 3 1). 

Jacob’s deal with Esau secured him the 
birthright that God all along intended him to have. 
Esau’s transfer of his birthright for a meal 
demonstrated that he was “godless” (Hebrews 
12: 16), since at the heart of the birthright were the 
covenant promises that Isaac had inherited from 
Abraham The owner of the birthright, generally 
the firstborn, also received at least a double 
portion of the father’s wealth at the time the 
father’s death. 

In the line of covenant promise, all Abraham’s 
sons were eliminated except Isaac. Of Isaac’s 
sons, Esau was eliminated and Jacob alone chosen. 
With Jacob the process of elimination stopped, and 
all Jacob’s descendants were included in the 
Chosen Nation. 


Not much is told of Isaac’s life beyond this 

incident of Abimelech and Rebekah and the 
argument over wells. Isaac had inherited the bulk 
of his father’s extensive flocks and herds; he was 
prosperous and peaceable, and his life was 

Note that the Patriarchs not only had sheep, 
goats, camels, and donkeys, but also lived a 
somewhat sedentary lifestyle, for “Isaac planted 
crops in that land and the same year reaped a 
hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him” (v. 
12 ). 

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and 
Sarah 90. He was 37 when his mother died, 40 
when he married, 60 when Jacob was born, 75 
when Abraham died, 137(?) when Jacob fled, 
157(?) when Jacob returned, and 167 when Joseph 
was sold. He died at 180, in the year Joseph 

became ruler of Egypt. Abraham lived 175 years; 
Isaac, 180; Jacob, 147; Joseph, 110. 

The statement about God’s “requirements, 
commands, decrees, and laws” (v. 5) would seem 
to indicate that the beginnings of God’s written 
Word were already in existence in Abraham’s day. 


Jacob had already bought the birthright from Esau 
(25:31-34). It was now necessary to get his father 
to validate the transfer by receiving the 
corresponding blessing. This he accomplished by 
deception. In evaluating the moral quality of 
Jacob’s act, a number of things need to be 
considered: (1) his mother put him up to it; (2) he 
wanted the birthright because it was the channel of 
God’s promise of blessing to the whole world; (3) 
with only his human understanding, he thought there 
was no other way to obtain it; (4) Esau cared 
nothing for it; (5) Jacob paid dearly for his fraud 

(see under chap. 29); (6) God Himself, laying the 
foundation of His plans for the world (Romans 
9:10-13), made the choice before the boys were 
born (25:23). 

Isaac’s predictions (vv. 29, 40). God must 
have put these words into Isaac’s mouth, for they 
did come true. Jacob’s descendants did gain a 
dominant position among the nations and in time 
produced Christ. Esau’s descendants, the 
Edomites, were subservient to Israel; in time they 
did throw off Israel’s yoke (2 Kings 8:20-22); and 
they have disappeared from history. 


The transfer of the birthright from Esau to Jacob 
had been validated by Isaac. It is now validated in 
heaven. God Himself assures Jacob that from now 
on he is to be the recognized bearer of the 
promises. The ladder is a hint that the promises 
will culminate in something that would bridge 
heaven and earth. Jesus said that He was that 
Ladder (John 1:51) and the only Mediator between 
God and men ( 1 Timothy 2:5). 

Jacob is thought to have been 77 years old at 

this time. He was 15 when Abraham died, 84 when 
he married, 90 when Joseph was born, 98 when he 
returned to Canaan, 120 when Isaac died, 130 
when he went to Egypt, and 147 when he died. 

His first 77 years were spent in Canaan, the 
next 20 in Haran, then 33 in Canaan, and the last 17 
in Egypt. 


Haran was 400 miles northeast of Canaan. It was 
the place where Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had 
been raised, and from which his grandfather 
Abraham had migrated many years before. Laban 
was Jacob’s uncle. Jacob was there 20 years. They 
were years of hardship and suffering. A wife 
whom he did not want was forced on him by 
deceit, just as he had gotten his father’s blessing by 
deceit. He had begun to reap what he had sown. 

Jacob’s Family 

Jacob had two wives and two concubines whom, 
except for one, he did not want but who were 
forced on him. Of these, 12 sons were born: 

• Of Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, 
Issachar, Zebulun 

• Of Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin 

• Of Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant: Gad, Asher 

• Of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant: Dan, 


This polygamous family, with many shameful 
things to its discredit, was accepted by God, as a 
whole, to be the beginning of the Twelve Tribes 
that became the Messianic Nation, chosen by God 
to bring the Savior into the world. This shows that 

• God uses human beings as they are to serve 
His purposes; He does, so to speak, the best 
He can with the material He has. 

• It is no indication that everyone whom God 
thus uses will be eternally saved. One may be 
useful in serving God’s plans in this world 

and yet fail to qualify for the eternal world in 
the day when God shall judge the secrets of 
men for final disposition (Romans 2:12-16). 

• The Bible writers were truthful. No other 
book narrates with such utter candor the 
weaknesses of its heroes and things so 
contrary to the ideals it aims to promote. 

i l 

Gen. 31-33 JACOB’S RETURN 

Jacob had left Canaan 20 years before, alone and 
empty-handed. (At this point, Isaac was still living; 
Abraham had been dead for about 100 years.) 
Now, he was returning, a tribal prince, rich in 
flocks, herds, and servants. God had kept His 
promise to Jacob (28:15). Laban’s parting words 
to Jacob (31:49) contain the beautiful Mizpah 
benediction, “The Lord watch between me and 
thee, when we are absent one from another” (KJV). 
Angels, on Jacob’s departure from Canaan, had 

wished him Godspeed (28: 12). Now, on his return, 
angels welcome him home (32:1). Jacob was now 
entering his inheritance in the Promised Land of 
Canaan. God had been with him thus far. Jacob 
remembered that Esau had vowed to kill him 
(27:41), and he prayed for God’s continued 

Jacob sent a peace party ahead to his brother 
Esau with many gifts. The men returned with news 
that Esau was coming to meet Jacob. Jacob was 
still afraid. He felt he needed God more than ever 

That night God appeared to Jacob in the form 
of a man. Jacob had the upper hand in wresting 
with “the man” all night, but God showed Jacob 
that He was more powerful by disabling Jacob’s 
hip socket with His touch. Jacob refused to stop 
wrestling until “the man” blessed him. In this way 
Jacob finally acknowledged that he needed God’s 
blessing. As Jacob acknowledged God, so God 
acknowledged Jacob by changing his name to 
“Israel,” meaning “He struggles with God.” 

After Jacob’s encounter with God, he saw Esau 

coming with his men. He soon realized that Esau 
came to him in peace. Their meeting was one of 
reconciliation. They separated again in peace, and 
Jacob entered Canaan. 


On his return, Shechem was Jacob’s first stopping 
place in Canaan. There he bought a parcel of 
ground and erected an altar to God, as if planning 
to make it his home, temporarily at least. But the 
bloody act of Simeon and Levi made him odious to 
his neighbors, and he soon moved on to Bethel. 


Bethel was the place where, 20 years before, in his 
flight from Canaan, Jacob had seen the heavenly 
ladder and God had made him heir to the 

Abrahamic promises. Now God reassures him that 
those promises shall be fulfilled. Jacob set up a 
stone pillar in recognition of the place where God 
had talked to him. Later, on their way to Ephrath 
(Bethlehem), Rachel gave birth to Benjamin. She 
unfortunately died in childbirth. Jacob buried her 
and created a tomb. 

Then Jacob moved on to Hebron, the home of 
Abraham and Isaac. Sometime after his arrival, 
Isaac died at the age of 180. Together Jacob and 
Esau buried their father in the family tomb. 

10. The Account of Esau, 
Genesis 36:1-43 

The 10th document composing Genesis (see How 
Genesis Is Organized in the chapter on Genesis 1— 
11). It contains a brief account of the origin of the 

Esau, in personal character, was profane and 
irreligious; he “despised” his birthright. Compared 
with Esau, Jacob was more fit to be the father of 

God’s Messianic Nation. 

(On the Edomites and the land of Edom, see 
The Edomites in the chapter on Obadiah.) 

The Amale kites (v. 12) were a branch of 
Esau’s descendants. They were a wandering tribe, 
centering mainly around Kadesh, in the northern 
part of the Sinai Peninsula, but roaming in wide 
circles, even into Judah and far to the east. They 
were the first to attack Israel upon their departure 
from Egypt, and they oppressed Israel during the 
period of the Judges. 

Jobab (v. 34) is thought by some to have been 
the Job of the book of Job. Eliphaz and Teman (vv. 
10-11) are named in the book of Job. This chapter 
may supply the setting for the book of Job. 

11. The Account of Jacob, 
Genesis 37:2 to 50:26 

The 11th and final document composing Genesis 
contains the story of Joseph and Israel’s migration 
to Egypt. Joseph, probably more than any of the 

Patriarchs, was a type or symbol of the people of 
Israel, who struggled with God and men and yet, 
with God’s blessing, overcame all circumstances. 
Joseph was a source of blessing to all the nations 
(12:2-3). Through Joseph, Abraham’s family 
became a great nation in Egypt. This became the 
backdrop for the great exodus described in the next 
book of the Bible. 


The richly ornamented robe (v. 3; KJY coat of 
many colors) was a badge of favoritism, possibly 
indicating Jacob’s intention to make Joseph heir to 
the birthright. 

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was natural heir to 
the birthright; but he was disqualified because of 
his illicit relationship with one of his father’s 
concubines (35:22; 49:3-4; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2). 
Simeon and Levi, second and third in line of 
succession (29:31-35), were passed over because 

of their crime at Shechem (34:25-30; 49:5-7). 
Judah, the fourth son, was next in line, and the 
family may have expected that the birthright would 
go to him 

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of 
God? You intended to harm me, but God 
intended it for good to accomplish what 
is now being done, the saving of many 
lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will 
provide for you and your children. ” 

— Genesis 50:20-21 

But Joseph, though Jacob’s 11th son, was 
Rachel’s firstborn. Rachel was Jacob’s best-loved 
wife, and Joseph was his favorite son (v. 3). So the 
robe looked suspicious. And Joseph’s dreams of 
his own ascendancy (vv. 5-10) aggravated the 

Thus Judah and Joseph appear to have been 
rivals for the birthright. This may explain Judah’s 

active part in selling Joseph into slavery (vv. 26- 
27). The rivalry between Judah and Joseph passed 
to their descendants. The tribes of Judah and 
Ephraim (Joseph’s son) were contenders for 
supremacy. Judah took the lead under David and 
Solomon. Then, under the leadership of Ephraim, 
the Ten Tribes seceded (1 Kings 12). 


This chapter is probably inserted because Judah 
was progenitor of the Messiah, and it was in 
accord with the Old Testament purpose to preserve 
family registers all along the line of succession, 
even though they contained some things not very 


Joseph was of unblemished character, unusually 
handsome, with an exceptional gift for leadership 

and an ability to make the best of every unpleasant 
situation. He was born in Haran, 75 years after the 
death of Abraham, 30 years before the death of 
Isaac (when his father was about 90), and eight 
years before they returned to Canaan. At 17 he was 
sold into Egypt and spent 13 years in Potiphar’s 
house and in prison. At age 30 he became ruler of 
Egypt. He died at age 110. 

Joseph gained the attention of Pharaoh by 
interpreting his dreams as an agent of God. Joseph 
made it clear that interpretations belong to God 
(40:8). Joseph’s interpretation was that God was 
going to bring to Egypt seven years of great 

abundance followed by seven years of famine. 
Through the dream, God gave Pharaoh, who did 
not know God, a warning and provided a plan of 
provision that would support the people through 
this time. Pharaoh recognized God’s favor on 
Joseph and put him in charge of the whole land of 

Gen. 40-41 JOSEPH MADE 

Joseph married a daughter of the priest of On. But 
although he had a heathen wife and ruled a heathen 
kingdom, he maintained his childhood faith in the 
God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

These images from the Pharaonic Village in Cairo show the 
kind of life Joseph and his descendants may have lived in 
Goshen during the good years before a new pharaoh put the 
Israelites to forced labor on his building projects. 

Gen. 42-45 JOSEPH MAKES 

This has been called one of the most beautiful 
stories in all literature. The most touching incident 
in the story is when Judah, who many years before 
had been the ringleader in selling Joseph into 
slavery (37:26), now offers to become hostage for 
Benjamin (44:18-34). 

Gen. 46-47 JACOB AND HIS 

God had planned that Israel should be nurtured for 
a while in Egypt, which was the most advanced 
civilization of that day. As Jacob left Canaan, God 
gave him assurance that his descendants would 
return (46:3-4). 


Jacob seems to have split the birthright, 
designating Judah as the channel of the messianic 
promise (49: 10), yet pronouncing national prestige 
on Joseph’s son Ephraim (48:19-22; 49:22-26; 1 
Chronicles 5:1-2). 

Jacob’s prophecy about the Twelve Tribes 
parallels to a remarkable degree the subsequent 
history of the tribes. “Shiloh” (v. 10) is commonly 
taken to be a name for the Messiah. The tribe of 
Judah produced David, and David’s family 
produced Christ. 


Jacob’s body was taken back to Hebron for burial. 
And Joseph exacted an oath of his brothers that 

when Israel returned to Canaan, they would carry 
his bones. This belief that Canaan would be their 
homeland was not forgotten; and 400 years later, 
when they set out for Canaan, the Israelites took 
Joseph’s bones along (Exodus 13:19). 



Modern Egypt covers almost 400,000 square miles 
(just over a million square kilometers). But 96% of 
this area is desert, and 99% of the population lives 
on the 4% of the land that is usable, which 
stretches along the Nile River in a valley 2 to 20 
miles wide, with an average width of about 10 
miles, and 750 miles long. Only there where the 
Nile enters the Mediterranean Sea does this valley 
widen into a broad delta through which a number 
of branches from the Nile flow. The Delta, a 
triangle, is about 100 miles north and south, and 
about 150 miles east and west, from Port Said to 
Alexandria. It is the most fertile part of Egypt. The 
land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was the 
eastern part of the Delta. 

The floor of the valley is covered with a black 

alluvial deposit of rich soil of unparalleled 
fertility, replenished each year by the overflow of 
the Nile, which rises an average of 25 feet once a 

Surrounded and protected by the desert, one of 
the first great civilizations in history developed in 
this narrow Nile Valley, and nowhere else have the 
remains of an ancient civilization been so well 
preserved. The dry desert climate has preserved, 
for thousands of years, materials that would have 
perished long since in other climates, such as 
papyrus and leather. 

The population of modern Egypt is about 50 
million; in Old Testament times it was between 1 
1/2 and 5 million. 

When Was the Exodus? 

There are two major views regarding the date of 
the Exodus from Egypt. The first, called the Early 
Date Theory is based on a literal reading of 1 
Kings 6:1: “In the four hundred and eightieth year 
after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the 
fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the 

month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build 
the temple of the Lord.” 

Since Solomon began to rule in 970 B.c., the 
fourth year of his reign would be 966 B.c. The text 
says that the Exodus from Egypt took place 480 
years before this; that gives 1446 b.c. as the 
approximate date of the Exodus. In this view, 
Moses would have grown up and lived for 40 
years at the court of three very powerful kings of 
the 18th Dynasty, Thutmose I, II, and III. (For more 
details on the Egyptian kings and pharaohs, see the 
section Who Was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? in the 
chapter on The Exodus from Egypt: Exodus- 
Deuteronomy.) It is then possible — though not at 
all certain — that Hatshepsut was the Egyptian 
princess, mentioned in Exodus 2, who adopted 

The internal chronology of the biblical text 
when set against Egyptian chronology would thus 
indicate that Moses fled Egypt during the long 
reign of the very powerful Thutmose III and 
returned — after tending Jethro’s sheep for 40 years 
— to the court of Amenhotep II, during whose reign 

he led Israel out of Egypt (ca. 1446 B.c.). 

Those who hold to a Late Date Theory of the 
Exodus (around 1290 B.c.) point to Exodus 1:11: 
“So they put slave masters over them to oppress 
them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and 
Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.” They argue 
that the Rameses mentioned here must be named 
for one of the Rameses pharaohs of the 19th 
Dynasty — usually Rameses II. 

Arguments and counterarguments are put forth 
by all sides, based on additional factors of biblical 
and Egyptian chronology as well as on the results 
of archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan 
relating to the conquest of the land by the Israelites 
— ca. 1400 b.c, (early date) or ca. 1250 b.c, (late 
date). Sites such as Jericho, Ai, and Hazor figure 
prominently in the discussion, for they are said to 
have been burned and destroyed by the invading 
Israelites (see the book of Joshua). 

All, however, are agreed that Israel was in the 
land by Merneptah’s fifth year (ca. 1231 B.c.): 
Israel is actually mentioned on a stela of 
Merneptah as already living in the land of Canaan. 

The early date — though not without problems 
— fits the biblical as well as the extrabiblical data 
the best. 

Who Was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? 

According to the biblical data, Jacob and his 
family entered Egypt around 1876 B.c,, which 
would have been during the reign of King Sesostris 
III of the 12th Dynasty. The kings of the 15th and 
16th Dynasties were Hyksos, a Semitic line of 
conquerors from Asia, possibly kin to the 
Israelites, who had pressed in from Syria. 

It is possible that the “new king, who did not 
know about Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), during whose 
rule the oppression began, was one of the kings of 
these Hyksos dynasties. As a member of a small 
ruling elite, the Hyksos king would have been 
afraid that his more numerous subjects would 
revolt (“the Israelites have become much too 
numerous for us,” Exodus 1:9). The Hyksos were 
driven out by King Ahrnose of the 18th Dynasty, 
around 1570 B.c. It is possible that after the Hyksos 
were driven out, the oppression of the Israelites 

actually increased, since the Hyksos, like the 
Israelites, were Semites and their expulsion 
resulted in a general anti-Semitic reaction. Ahmose 
also made Palestine and Syria tributaries to Egypt. 

Amenhotep 1(1545 B.c.) 

Thutmose I (1529 b.c.). Boasted that he ruled 
from the third cataract of the Nile to the Euphrates 
River about 700 miles to the northeast of Egypt. 
First royal rock-cut tomb. 

Thutmose II (1517 b.c,). Hatshepsut, his half- 
sister and wife, was the real ruler. 

Hatshepsut (1504 B.c,). Daughter of Thutmose 
I. Regent for Thutmose II and Thutmose III. The 
first great queen in history. A most remarkable 
woman, and one of Egypt’s greatest and most 
vigorous rulers. She had many of her statues 
represent her as a man. She extended the empire 
and built many monuments, such as the two great 
obelisks at Karnak and the great temple at Deir el 
Bahri, furnished with many statues of herself. 
Thutmose HI hated her, and when she died, one of 
his first acts was to take her name off all 
monuments and destroy all her statues. Those at 

Bahri were broken to pieces, flung into a quarry, 
and covered by drifting sands. 

Thutmose HI (1504 b.c.). Queen Hatshepsut, 
his half-sister, was regent during the early years of 
his reign, and though he despised her, she 
completely dominated him. His sole rule began in 
1482, in which year he made the first of 17 
campaigns into the Levant (the region east of the 
Mediterranean Sea between Greece and Egypt), 
taking control of the area. After her death, he ruled 
alone for 30 years. He was the greatest conqueror 
in Egyptian history. He subdued Ethiopia and ruled 
to the Euphrates, creating a great empire. He 
raided Palestine and Syria 17 times. He 
accumulated great wealth, engaged in vast building 
enterprises, and recorded his achievements in 
detail on walls and monuments. He is thought to 
have been one of the oppressors of Israel. If so, 
then the famous Queen Hatshepsut may have been 
the pharaoh’s daughter who rescued and brought up 

Amenhotep II (1453 B.c,). Many scholars 
think he was the pharaoh of the Exodus. He 

maintained the empire founded by Thutmose III. 
Interestingly, he is not known for military 
campaigns late in his reign — perhaps because ol 
the loss of his chariots and troops at the Red Sea? 

Thutmose IV (1426 B.c,). The chariot in which 
he rode has been found. His mummy is now at 

Amenhotep III (1416 B.c.). Under him, the 
empire experienced its era of greatest splendor. He 
raided Canaan during the early years of his reign. 
He built vast temples. During his years, and those 
of his successor, Akhenaten, the cuneiform 
documents found at el-Amarna were written. His 
mummy is in Cairo. 

Akhenaten (1380 B.c.). Under him, Egypt lost 
its Asiatic Empire. He attempted to establish 
monotheistic sun worship. 

Tutankhamen. (1377 B.c.) Son-in-law ol 
Akhenaten. He restored the old religion. He was 
one of the lesser rulers of Egypt, at the close of the 
most brilliant period of Egyptian history. He is 
famous now for the amazing riches and 
magnificence of his tomb, which was discovered 

by Howard Carter in 1922 — the first tomb of a 
pharaoh to be discovered that had not been robbed. 
The inner coffin, which contains his mummy, is 
made of solid gold. 

Rameses II (1304 b.c.) After several lesser 
rulers, Rameses II was one of the greatest of the 
pharaohs, though inferior to Thutmose III and 
Amenhotep III. He ruled for 67 years and was a 
great builder, a great self-promoter, and something 
of a plagiarist, claiming credit in some cases for 
accomplishments of his predecessors. He 
reestablished the empire from Ethiopia to the 
Euphrates and raided and pillaged Palestine 
repeatedly. He completed the great hall at Karnak 
and other vast works, including fortifications, 
canals, and temples, which were built by slaves 
taken in war or captives from the far south, along 
with the native working class, toiling in gangs in 
the quarry or brick fields, or dragging great stone 
blocks over soft earth. Some scholars consider him 
to be the pharaoh of the Exodus (the so-called Late 
Date Exodus; see the section When Was the 
Exodus? in the chapter on The Exodus from Egypt: 

Exodus-Deuteronomy) . 

Merneptah (1236 B.c.) On his stela he 
mentions having defeated Israel — “Israel is laid 
waste, his seed is not” — indicating that Israel was 
already in the land of Canaan. 

What Route Did the Israelites Follow After the 

The books of Exodus and Numbers contain a 
considerable amount of geographical information 
in the narrative of the Exodus and the journey to the 
land of Canaan. But many of the places and regions 
mentioned remain unknown. The major reason for 
this is that the population of the desert-wilderness 
regions of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev, and parts 
of southern Transjordan was nomadic. Without a 
continuity of a sedentary population, the 
preservation of ancient place names is almost 

The other difficulty is that archaeologists have 
not discovered any remains that can be attributed 
to the Israelites in those regions through which they 
traveled. This, however, could be expected, for a 

nomadic people, living in tents and using animal 
skins instead of pottery for containers, would leave 
few permanent remains behind. 

Thus scholars are divided on the location even 
of major landmarks such as the Red Sea and Mount 
Sinai. It has been noted that nine different 
proposals have been made for the location of the 
Red Sea or Reed Sea — including three lakes near 
the Mediterranean Sea, four lakes along the line of 
the present-day Suez Canal, and the Gulf of Suez 
and the Gulf of Elath. There are also 12 different 
candidates for Mount Sinai: five in the southern 
part of the Sinai Peninsula, four in the north, one in 
the center, one in Midian (Saudi Arabia), and one 
in Edom (southern Transjordan). 

In spite of these uncertainties, a few 
suggestions can be made: 

1. After leaving Raineses (Tell el-Dab’a), the 
Israelites journeyed to Succoth (possibly Tell 
el-Maskhuta in the Wadi Tumi 1 at). For fear of 
their becoming discouraged because of war, 
“God did not lead them by the way of the land 

of the Philistines” (Exodus 13:17 NASB). 
“God did not lead them on the road through 
the Philistine country, though that was 
shorter” (Exodus 13:17 NTV). This well- 
known route from Sile to Gaza, across the 
northern Sinai Peninsula, was the one 
pharaohs Thutmose III and Amenhotep II had 
used so effectively on their frequent 
campaigns to Canaan, and it must have been 
well fortified by Egyptian troops. Thus a 
northern route for the Exodus seems excluded. 

2. Since the Israelites were led “around by the 
desert road toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 
13:18), it appears that they were heading 
southeast toward modern Suez. The location 
of Etham (“fort” in Egyptian), Migdol (“fort” 
in Semitic), Baal Zephon, and Pi Hahiroth are 
problematic. The suggestion that Hahiroth 
refers to the low ground between Jebel 
Geneife and the Bitter Lakes is plausible but 
not certain. Etham and Migdol could be any of 
a number of Egyptian forts located near the 
present-day Suez Canal. 

3. On the next stage of their journey the 
Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Since the 
Hebrew text literally means “Reed Sea,” 
many scholars look for a location in the 
lake/marsh that used to exist in the region 
through which the Suez Canal now passes. 
The suggestion for a location near the junction 
of the Great and Little Bitter lakes is as 
plausible as any. According to 19th-century 
travelers, the water at that spot was not very 
deep, and they even mention that at times the 
depth of the water decreased when the wind 
shifted. According to the text, the “Lord drove 
the sea back with a strong east wind” (Exodus 

4. The identification of Mount Sinai (Horeb) 
with Jebel Musa (“Mount Moses”) is based 
on Christian tradition dating back to the 4th 
century A. D., about 1,750 years after the event. 
There, during the Byzantine period (a.d. 324- 
640), the desert monastery of St. Catherine 
was established. Although the Greek 
Orthodox monks today like to point out the 

very site of the giving of the Law, the place 
where the golden calf was erected, the plain 
where the Israelites camped, the site of the 
burning bush, and so on, the suggested 
identification of Mount Sinai with Jebel Sin 
Bisher deserves careful attention. Its location 
agrees with some of the biblical data. For 
example, it is located approximately three 
days’ journey from Egypt (Exodus 3:18; 5:3; 
8:27), at a desert junction where there are fair 
supplies of water; possibly the Amalekites 
fought with Israel for control of this junction 
and the water sources (Exodus 17). It is close 
to Egypt on the road that led directly from 
Midian to Egypt, and thus it would make a 
plausible location for the burning bush 
incident. Moses could have been bringing 
Jethro’s sheep along this road in order to use 
the water and pasture land found on the 
eastern edge of the Nile delta when the Lord 
appeared to him in the burning bush. This is 
said to have taken place near the mountain 
where he would later worship him (Exodus 

3:1). Since it is reasonable to assume that 
Moses used the way of the wilderness on his 
return to Egypt, the meeting of Moses and 
Aaron at the “mountain of God” could well 
have been at this spot (Exodus 4:27). 

5. The location of Marah, where the water was 
bitter (Exodus 15:23), and of Elim, where 
there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees (v. 
27), depends on where one locates Mount 
Sinai. If Jebel Sin Bisher is accepted as 
Mount Sinai, then the identifications of Marah 
and Elim with Bir Mara (“bitter well” in 
Arabic) and Ayun Musa (“the spring of 
Moses”) are plausible. If the more traditional 
site of Sinai at Jebel Musa is maintained, then 
identifications of Marah and Elim with Ein 
Hawwara and Gharandal are also possible. 

Egypt and the Bible 

According to the book of Genesis, Egypt was 

settled by the descendants of Ham (Genesis 
10:6; Mizraim is an ancient name for Egypt). 
Abraham spent some time in Egypt (Genesis 
12:10-20). So did Jacob (Genesis 46: 1 — 
47:12). Joseph was ruler of Egypt (Genesis 
41:41-47). The Hebrew nation, in its 
childhood, was 400 years in Egypt. Moses 
was the adopted son of a queen of Egypt 
(Exodus 2:1-10), and, in his preparation to be 
Israel’s Lawgiver, he was instructed in all the 
wisdom and learning of Egypt. Jeremiah died 
in Egypt. From the Captivity until the time of 
Christ there was a considerable Jewish 
population in Egypt. The Septuagint (the 
Greek translation of the Old Testament) was 
made in Egypt. Jesus spent part of His 
childhood in Egypt. Egypt became an 
important early center of Christianity. 


The 400 Years in Egypt 
The Exodus from Egypt 
The Ten Commandments 
The Tabernacle 

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a 
pillar of cloud to guide them on their way 
and by night in a pillar of fire to give them 
light, so that they could travel by day or 
night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor 
the pillar of fire by night left its place in 
front of the people. 

— Exodus 13 : 21-22 

Moses answered the people, “Do not be 
afraid. Stand firm and you will see the 

deliverance the Lord will bring you today. 
The Egyptians you see today you will never 
see again. The Lord will fight for you; you 
need only to be still. ’’ 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are 
you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to 
move on. ” 

— Exodus 14:13-15 

The title of this book comes from the Septuagint, 
the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. 
The word means “exit” or “departure.” Exodus is 
book two of the Pentateuch (see In the Beginning: 
Genesis 1-11 and The Old Testament Canon in the 
chapter How We Got the Bible). The traditional 
view held by most Bible scholars is that Moses 
wrote the bulk of the Pentateuch after Israel’s 
exodus from Egypt and during their 40 years of 
wandering in the desert. 

Exodus gives us insight into God’s nature, and 
it also provides a foundational theology as to who 
God is, how He is to be worshiped, His laws, His 
covenant with Israel, and His overall plan of 

redemption. Through the Exodus, His Ten 
Commandments, and the laws given in the Book of 
the Covenant, we see God’s loving and just 
character and we obtain a greater understanding of 
the depth of His holiness. 


A total of 430 years elapsed between Jacob’s 
migration to Egypt and the Exodus (12:40M1). 
Genesis ended with the death of Joseph, and 
Exodus begins 300 years later with the birth of 
Moses. During these centuries the Israelites had 
become very numerous (v. 7). At the time of the 
Exodus there were 600,000 men above age 20, 
besides women and children (Numbers 1:46), 
which would total about 3 million Israelites. For 
70 persons to grow to this number in 430 years, 
they would have had to double about every 25 
years, which is entirely possible. (The growth of 
the population in the United States in 400 years, 
from relatively few to more than a quarter billion, 

makes the statement about the growth of the 
Israelites credible — even allowing for the fact that 
the U.S. population grew in part because of 

After the death of Joseph, a change of dynasty 
made the Israelites a race of slaves. But the family 
records of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, no doubt, 
had been carried to Egypt, and through the long 
years of slavery the promise that Canaan would 
one day be their national home, and that they would 
be free, was steadfastly cherished. 

Making sun-dried mudbricks. These bricks deteriorated over 
time. Baked mudbricks required more labor than other kinds, 
but lasted longer and were sometimes used for exterior walls. 

Ex. 2 MOSES 

Exodus begins the story of Moses. His life and 
work are the subject matter of not only the book of 
Exodus, but also of Leviticus, Numbers, and 
Deuteronomy. Moses stands out as one of the 
greatest — perhaps the greatest — man of the pre- 
Christian world. He took a race of slaves and, 
under inconceivably trying circumstances, molded 
them into a powerful nation that has altered the 
whole course of history. 

Moses was a Levite — he was of the tribe of 
Levi (v. 1). The sister who engineered his rescue 
was Miriam (15:20). His father may have been 
Amram, his mother Jochebed (6:20), although they 
may have been more distant ancestors. And what a 
mother! She so thoroughly instilled the traditions of 

his people in him in childhood that all the splendor 
and temptations of the heathen palace never 
eradicated those early impressions. He had the 
finest education Egypt could offer, but it did not 
turn his head or cause him to lose his childhood 

His 40 Years in the Palace 

Moses, as he grew to manhood, is thought to have 
been appointed to high office in the government of 
Egypt. Josephus says he commanded an army in the 
south. He must have attained considerable power, 
reputation, and skill; otherwise it is not likely that 
he would have undertaken so gigantic a task as the 
deliverance of Israel, which (according to Acts 
7:25) he had in mind when he intervened in the 
Egyptian’s beating of a Hebrew slave (vv. 11-15). 
But though conscious of his power, he failed, 
because the people were not ready for his 
leadership — and neither was Moses himself. 

His 40 Years in the Desert 

These 40 years, in God’s providence, were part of 

Moses’ training. The loneliness and roughness of 
the wilderness developed sturdy qualities he could 
hardly have acquired in the softness of the palace. 
It familiarized him with the region in which he 
later led Israel for 40 years. 

The center of Midian (v. 15), the country where 
Moses went, was on the eastern shore of the Gulf 
of Akaba, although the Midianites controlled the 
regions west of the gulf and to the north as well. In 
Moses’ day they controlled the rich pasture lands 
around Sinai. 

Moses married a Midianite woman, Zipporah 
(v. 21), a daughter of Jethro (who is also called 
Reuel; 2:18; 3:1). Jethro, as priest of Midian, must 
have been a ruler. The Midianites were also 
descendants of Abraham, through Keturah (Genesis 
25:2), and must have had traditions of Abraham’s 
God. Moses had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer 


After a life of brooding over the sufferings of his 
people and the age-old promises of God, the call 
to deliver Israel came at last, directly from God, 
when Moses was 80 years old. But Moses was no 
longer self-confident, as he had been in his younger 
years. He was reluctant to go and made all kinds of 
excuses. But in the end he went, assured of divine 
help and armed with the power to work miracles. 


Pharaoh was insolent. He ordered the supervisors 
to lay even heavier burdens on the Israelites; they 
were to make the same number of bricks as before, 
but now they also had to find their own straw 
(2:10-19). Moses soon lost favor with the 
Israelites, who were quick to blame him for the 
increased level of oppression. God continued to 
press Moses to again approach Pharaoh for their 
release and to tell the Israelites that He had not 
forgotten His covenant with them. 


This is considered an abbreviated genealogy that 
mentions only the more prominent ancestors. 
According to this genealogy, Moses was the 
grandson of Kohath, yet in his day there were 
8,600 Kohathites (Numbers 3:28). Thus there is 
uncertainty as to the exact translation of v. 20. 


The waters of the Nile turned to blood. Pharaoh’s 
magicians (Jannes and Jambres, 2 Timothy 3:8) 
imitated the miracle on a small scale. Whatever the 
nature of the miracle, the fish died and people 
could not drink the water. 

The Nile was a god to the Egyptians. Without 
the Nile, Egypt would be a lifeless desert. 


The frog represented Heqt, the Egyptian god of 

resurrection. At Moses’ command, frogs swarmed 
out of the Nile and filled houses. The magicians 
again imitated the miracle, but this time Pharaoh 
was convinced and promised to let Israel go. But 
he quickly changed his mind. 

The 10 Plagues and the Gods 
of Egypt 

The 10 plagues were aimed at the gods of 
Egypt and were designed to give proof of the 
power of the God of Israel over the gods of 
Egypt. Over and over it is repeated that by 
these miracles both Israel and Egyptians 
would come to “know that the Lord is God” 
(6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:22; 10:2; 14:4, 18). Later, in 
the desert, the manna and the quail were 
intended to show the same thing (16:6, 12). 
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened on his own 
accord during the first five plagues. God 
hardened his heart during the other five. 

Without them, Israel never would have been 
delivered, and there would have been no 
Hebrew nation. 

Plague: 1. Nile turned to blood 7:14-25 

God(s): Khnum, the guardian of the Nile 

Hopi, the spirit of the Nile 

Osiris, the giver of life, whose bloodstream 

was the Nile 

Plague: 2. Frogs 8:1-15 

God(s): Heqt, the god of resurrection, who 

also assisted women in childbirth and whose 

form was a frog 

Plague: 3. Gnats (mosquitoes) 8:16-19 
Plague: 4. Flies 8:20-32 
Plague: 5. Plague on cattle 9: 1-7 
God(s): Hathor, the mother goddess, whose 
form was a cow 

Apis, the bull god, who was the living 
personification of Ptah (the creator god) and 
the symbol of fertility 
Plague: 6. Boils 9:8-12 
God(s): Imhotep, the god of medicine 

Plague: 7. Hail 9: 13-35 

God(s): Nut, the sky goddess 

Isis, the goddess of life 

Seth, the protector of crops 

Plague: 8. Locusts 10:1-20 

God(s): Isis, the goddess of life 

Seth, the protector of crops 

Plague: 9. Darkness 10:21-29 

God(s): Re, Aten, Atum, Horns all of whom 

were sun gods of sorts 

Plague: 10. Death of firstborn 11:1-12:36 

God(s): Pharaoh, who was considered a god 

Osiris, the giver of life 

— Adapted from John H. Walton, Chronological and Background 

Charts of the Old Testament. 

The third plague was gnats. Moses hit the dust, 
and it became gnats (mosquitoes) on both man and 
beast. The magicians tried to imitate this miracle, 
but failed — in fact, they were convinced that it was 
of God. They ceased their efforts to oppose Moses 

and advised Pharaoh to give in. 

The fourth plague consisted of swarms of flies 
that covered the people and filled the houses of the 
Egyptians. But there were no flies on the Israelites. 

Still Pharaoh hardened his heart (vv. 15, 32). 
God’s purpose was to make Pharaoh repent. But 
when a man sets himself against God, even God’s 
mercies result in further hardening. 


The plague on Egypt’s livestock was a terrible 
blow at Egyptian gods. The bull was a chief god. 
Again there is a distinction between Egyptians and 
Israelites: the Egyptians’ livestock died in vast 
numbers, but not one of those belonging to 
Israelites. “All” in v. 6 refers to the livestock of 
the Egyptians that were left in the fields. Moses 
gave them until the next day (v. 5) so that God- 
fearing Egyptians had time to move their livestock 
out of danger. Verses 19-21 refer to livestock that 


The boils, the sixth plague, came on both man 
and beast, and even on the magicians, from ashes 
which Moses sprinkled into the air. 

Before the seventh plague came and hail fell, a 
merciful warning was again extended to God- 
fearing Egyptians to drive their cattle to cover. 
Again there is a distinction between Egyptians and 
Israelites: no hail fell in Goshen. 

By this time the people of Egypt had become 
convinced (10:7). The sudden appearance and 
disappearance of the plagues, at the word of 
Moses, on such a vast scale, were accepted as 
evident miracles from God. But Pharaoh hesitated 
because of the immense economic impact the loss 
of his slave labor would have — Israelite labor had 
contributed greatly to Egypt’s rise to power. 

It is not known how long a period the 10 
plagues covered. Pharaoh, no doubt, would have 
killed Moses had he dared. But with each new 
plague, Moses’ prestige went up and up ( 1 1 :3). 


Locusts were one of the worst of the plagues. They 
came in vast clouds and would eat every green 
thing. At night they would cover the ground in 
layers to a depth of four or five inches. When 
mashed, the smell would be unbearable. The mere 
threat of a locust plague caused Pharaoh’s officials 
to beg him to yield (v. 7). 

“[The locusts] covered all the ground until it was black. They 
devoured all that was left after the hail — everything growing in 
the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on 
tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.” This description in 
Exodus 10:5 is not an exaggeration. A swarm of locusts can 
indeed darken the sun and strip an entire area of anything 

green in a very short time. 

The plague of darkness was a direct blow at 
Ra, or Re, Egypt’s sun god. There was midnight 
darkness over Egypt for three days, but light where 
Israelites dwelt. Pharaoh yielded — but again 
changed his mind. 


At last, the final and most devastating blow fell. 
Pharaoh yielded and Israel departed. 

The Israelites “borrowed” jewelry and clothes 
from the Egyptians (12:35 KJV). The fact is that 
they “asked” (NASB, NTV) — these were not loans, 
but outright gifts in payment of debts for 
accumulated generations of slave labor. God 
Himself had commanded the people to ask for 
these gifts (3:21-22; 11:2-3), and the Egyptians 
were only too glad to comply, for they feared the 
God of Moses (12:33) and what He could do to 

them. A large part of Egypt’s wealth was thus 
transferred to Israel. Some of it was used in the 
construction of the tabernacle. 

The Beginning of Passover 

The lamb, the blood on the doorposts, the death of 
the firstborn, deliverance out of a hostile country, 
and the celebration of the Feast of Passover 
throughout Israel’s history — all were intended by 
God to be a grand historical picture of Christ the 
Passover Lamb and our deliverance, by His blood, 
from a hostile world and from the slavery of sin. 
Other Scriptures refer to Jesus as our sacrificial 

• “A lamb without blemish or defect” (IPeter 

• “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the 
sins of the world!” (John 1 :29) 

• “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said 
‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ ” (John 1:36) 

• “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been 
sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7) 

• “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been 
slain . . (Revelation 5:16) 

Unleavened bread was to be eaten during the 
Passover Feast as a perpetual reminder of the haste 
with which the people left Egypt (12:34). 


The Israelites’ firstborn were to be consecrated to 
God perpetually, as a reminder of the Israelites’ 
redemption by the death of Egypt’s firstborn. Jesus 
was consecrated to God in accordance with this 
law, since he was Mary’s firstborn son (Luke 2:7, 

The route to Canaan which the Israelites 
followed (v. 17) was not the direct route along the 
coast of the Mediterranean Sea, since there were 
garrisons of Egyptian soldiers stationed along this 
route, which also went through the country of the 
Philistines. The most feasible route was the longer 

but safer way through the wilderness of the Sinai 
Peninsula (see What Route Did the Israelites 
Follow After the Exodus? in the chapter on The 
Exodus from Egypt: Exodus-Deuteronomy). 

The pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire 
by night (vv. 21-22). As they left Egypt and had to 
travel through hostile territory, God took them 
under His own care, with this visible sign of His 
guidance and protection. It never left them until 
they reached the Promised Land, 40 years later 
(14:19, 24; 33:9, 10; 40:34-38; Numbers 9:15, 23; 
10 : 11 ). 


The place where they crossed may have been near 
the location of the Bitter Lakes, now part of the 
Suez Canal. God used a “strong east wind” to dry 
up the sea (v. 21). The waters parted and formed a 
“wall of water” on either side (15:8; 14:22). This, 
as well as the timing of the waters’ return so that 
the Israelites were saved and the Egyptians 

destroyed, could have been done only by a direct 
miraculous act of God. It alarmed the neighboring 
nations (15:14-16). 

Crossing the Sea 

The “tongue” of the Gulf of Suez may have 
reached farther north in Moses’ day than it 
does today. The sea then would have flowed 
north into the depressions known today as the 
Bitter Lakes. If a steady wind (v. 21) pushed 
the shallow water north into the Bitter Lakes, 
it would have lowered the level of the water 
so that a land bridge would appear, which is 
not an uncommon phenomenon. The waters 
on the north and the south then were a “wall” 
or “defense.” There is no need to assume 
perpendicular heaps of water defying gravity 
— although there is no question that God 
could have done exactly that. The Egyptian 
pursuit implies that the enemy saw no more 

than a strange, but not completely unnatural 
phenomenon. They could not attack from 
either flank. They followed through the 
exposed sea mud and were caught and 
tangled by the returning tide (v. 25) following 
the relaxed pressure of the wind. 


This song seems to prefigure the mightier works 
for which the redeemed will sing praises to God 
through endless ages of eternity. The deliverance 
out of Egypt under Moses was so similar to what 
the deliverance of the church out of the world at 
the time of the end will be, that one of the 
triumphant songs of the redeemed in the book of 
Revelation is called “the Song of Moses and the 
Lamb” (Revelation 15:3). 


After one month of traveling, the hardships of 
desert life began to affect the Israelites’ 
dispositions. They began to complain, thinking 
about what they had in Egypt, rather than about 
what God would give them in the Promised Land 
(vv. 2-3). 

Manna was a small round flake used for 
making bread. It tasted, it is said, like wafers made 
with honey (v. 31). It was either a direct creation 
or a natural product miraculously multiplied. It fell 
with the dew each night and looked like coriander 
seed. The manna was ground in mills or beat in 
mortars, then boiled in pots, and cakes were made 
of it. Each person was allowed an omer (about two 
quarts or two liters) daily. On the sixth day there 
was always enough to last over the Sabbath. The 
manna began one month after they left Egypt and 
was given daily throughout the 40 years in the 
wilderness until they crossed the Jordan. Then it 
ceased as suddenly as it began (Numbers 11:6-9; 
Joshua 5:12). Jesus regarded manna as a 

foreshadowing of Himself (John 6:3 1-58). 

Quail (v. 13) are mentioned only twice: here 
and a year later, after Israel had left Mount Sinai 
(Numbers 11:31-34). The people had great herds 
of cattle (Exodus 12:38), which they could use 
only sparingly as food. In Egypt the Israelites had 
eaten mostly fish instead of red meat. 


Shortly before this, Moses had made the waters of 
Marah sweet (15:25). Here, in Rephidim, he 
produces water out of a rock. Later he performs a 
similar miracle at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13); 
however, he performs it in a way not pleasing to 
God. God rebukes Moses and Aaron and states that 
they will never enter the Promised Land. The battle 
with Amalek (vv. 8-15) is the first attempt, outside 
of Egypt, to interfere with Israel’s march to 
Canaan. As a result, God commanded that the 
Amalekites be exterminated (v. 14; Deuteronomy 

Mount Sinai 

Also called Horeb. The Peninsula of Sinai is 
triangular in shape, situated between two 
arms of the Red Sea. The west shore is 
about 180 miles long; the east shore about 
130; and the north border line about 150. The 
northern part of the peninsula is desert; the 
southern part is a “great cluster of rugged 
chaotic mountains.” 

The region was probably named for Sin, the 
Babylonian moon god. It was early known for 
its mines of copper, iron, ochre, and precious 
stones. Long before the days of Abraham, the 
kings of the East had made a road around the 
north and west fringes of the Arabian Desert 
to the Sinai region. 

There is some debate as to which mountain in 
the Sinai Peninsula is Mount Sinai. The two 
most likely possibilities are Ras es-Safsafeh 

and Jebel Musa, both of which are located on 
a granite ridge of about three miles. Ras es- 
Safsafeh (6,643 ft.) is on the northern edge, 
Jebel Musa (7,497 ft.) on the southern edge. 
Tradition and most modern scholars accept 
Jebel Musa as Mount Sinai; others prefer Ras 
es-Safsafeh because there is a considerable 
plain at the foot of the mountain where the 
Israelites could have camped (see Exodus 
20:18). Another possible (though less likely) 
candidate is Jebel Sin Bisher, about 50 miles 
north-northwest of Jebel Musa (see The 
identification of Mount Sinai in the chapter on 
The Exodus from Egypt: Exodus- 


At the foot of Jebel Musa is St. Catherine’s 
monastery, where Friedrich Tischendorf 
discovered the famous 4th-century manuscript 
of the Greek Bible known as the Codex 
Sinaiticus (see The Codex Sinaiticus in section 
2, How the Text of the Bible was Preserved). 

For a people who had never known anything but the flat 
country of Goshen and the Nile delta, Mount Sinai itself must 
have been imposing indeed. And it is little wonder that the 
people were terrified when the Lord appeared: 

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and 
lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a 
very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 
Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with 
God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount 
Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord 
descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it 
like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled 
violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and 
louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God 
answered him” (Exodus 19:16-19). 


Moses was inspired in a degree given to few men, 
yet it was through the counsel of this friendly 
Midianite prince, his father-in-law, that he came to 
a more efficient organization of the people. God 
uses human advice to help even the great! 


They were at Mount Sinai about 1 1 months (v. 1 ; 
Numbers 10:11). In a terrific thunderstorm, 
accompanied by earthquakes and supernatural 
trumpet blasts, and the mountain capped with 
terrifying flames, God spoke the Ten 
Commandments and gave the Law. 

Five hundred years later, at this same mountain, 
the prophet Elijah was given a hint that God’s 
work would be accomplished, not by means of fire 
and earthquake, but by the still, small voice, the 
“gentle whisper” of God’s message (1 Kings 

Ex. 20 THE TEN 

These Commandments were afterward engraved on 

both sides of two tablets of stone, “inscribed by 
the finger of God.” “The tablets were the work of 
God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved 
on the tablets” (31:18; 32:15-16). They were kept 
for centuries in the ark of the covenant (see The 
Most Holy Place in the chapter on Exodus). It is 
thought that they may have been destroyed in the 
destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (see 
Deportation of Judah by Babylon. 605 B.c. in the 
chapter on 2 Kings). 

The Ten Commandments were the basis of 
Hebrew law. Four of them have to do with our 
attitude toward God; six, with our attitude toward 
fellow human beings. Jesus condensed them into 
two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart 
and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and 
“Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 
22:37-39; see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 

“I am the Lord your God You shall 

have no other gods before me. You shall 

not make for yourself an idol. . . . You 
shall not misuse the name of the Lord 
your God. . . . Remember the Sabbath 
day by keeping it holy. . . . Honor your 
father and your mother. . . . You shall 
not murder. You shall not commit 
adultery. You shall not steal. You shall 
not give false testimony against your 
neighbor. You shall not covet .... 
anything that belongs to your neighbor. ” 

— Exodus 20:2-17 

Reverence for God is the basis of the Ten 
Commandments. Jesus indicated that He 
considered it the most basic and essential quality 
in man’s approach to God and made it the first 
petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be your 
name.” It is surprising how many people, in their 
ordinary conversation, continually blaspheme the 
name of God and use it in such a light and trivial 
way. It is even more surprising how many 

preachers and Christians use God’s name with a 
facile familiarity that lacks any reverence or awe, 
as if they were God’s equals. 

Ex. 21-24 THE BOOK OF THE 

After the Ten Commandments, this was the first 
installment of the Law for the Hebrew nation. 
These laws were written in a book. Then the 
covenant that pledged to obey the Law was sealed 
with blood (24:4, 7-8). 

The laws cover every aspect of daily life, from 
kindness toward widows and orphans to the death 
penalty for murder to hospitality toward strangers. 
Although many of the specific, individual laws no 
longer apply to us, the principles behind them most 
certainly do. Fairness, justice, and mercy are the 
foundation of Israel’s Law — which becomes very 
clear when we compare them with the laws of the 
nations around Israel. 

Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s 

mil k (23:19): A number of explanations have been 
suggested for this unusual command; it may be a 
warning against adopting a pagan, Canaanite ritual. 


God Himself gave the pattern in great detail 
(25:9). It is recorded twice: first in these chapters, 
where God explains how it is to be made; then in 
chapters 35-40, where the details are repeated to 
indicate that this is exactly how it had been built — 
according to God’s instructions. This repetition 
strikes us as redundant, but to the Hebrew ear it 
reflected the importance and solemnity of the 
building process. (See also Numbers 7, where the 
same list of gifts is repeated 12 times!) 

The tabernacle was a “likeness” of something, 
a “copy and shadow” of heavenly things (Hebrews 

8:5). It had special meaning to the Hebrew nation; 
yet it was a “pattern of things to come” (see 
Hebrews 9-10). 

The tabernacle and, later, the temple, which 
was built by King Solomon based on the pattern of 
the tabernacle, were the center of Jewish national 
life. Of direct divine origin, the tabernacle was an 
immensely important representation of certain 
ideas God wished to impress on mankind, 
foreshadowing many teachings of the Christian 

(For a more detailed description of the 
tabernacle, see below under chapters 35-40.) 


The bull, the principal god of Egypt called Apis, 
later also would become the god of the Ten Tribes 
(1 Kings 12:28). This pitiful apostasy, so soon 
after God had thundered from the mountain, “You 
shall have no other gods before me,” and after the 
marvelous miracles in Egypt, indicates the depths 

to which the Israelites had sunk in Egyptian 
idolatry. It was a crisis, calling for immediate 
discipline, and the punishment was swift and 

The wood used in the tabernacle was acacia. The acacia is 
the only tree that grows in desert regions and produces wood 
that can be used in building. Because of the dry and windy 
climate, the trees grow very slowly, and it takes many years 
for them to reach their maximum height of 16 to 25 feet. This 
makes acacia wood durable — it is harder than oak and not 
easily damaged by insects. Acacia wood has a beautiful 
orange-red color, which makes it eminently suitable for 
furniture and inlay work. In Egypt the wood was used in the 
making of sarcophagi. 

Moses’ willingness to be “blotted out of God’s 
book” for the people’s sake shows the grandeur of 
his character (32:31-32). 

i l 


The first time, Moses had been on the mountain for 
40 days and nights (24:18). He now went back for 
another 40 days and nights (vv. 2, 28). The first 
time, he had received the two tablets and the 
specifications for the tabernacle. Now he went to 
receive two new tablets to replace the originals he 
had broken earlier (32: 19). 

Moses’ “face was radiant” (vv. 29, 35) 
because he had been in the presence of God. So 
Jesus’ face “did shine as the sun” when he was 
transfigured (Matthew 17:2). 

Four-horned altar. This is a replica of an altar found at 
Beersheba. The symbolism of the horns is not clear. However, 
fugitives (except those guilty of intentional murder, 1 Kings 
2:28-32) could find asylum by grasping the horns of the altar 
in an appeal to God’s mercy. Cutting off the horns of an altar 
made it useless for religious purposes (Amos 3:14). 


The tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, was a portable 

sanctuary that served as a place of worship for the 
Israelites from the time of the wilderness 
wanderings until the building of the temple by 
Solomon. It was where God dwelt with the 
Israelites. The actual structure was only 15 feet tall 
— less than the height of a two-story house. But in 
the desert it was the highest structure in the camp 
of the Israelites and rose above the sea of tents as 
the constant reminder of God’s presence at the 
center of the nation. 

The Courtyard 

The enclosure (“courtyard”) in which the 
tabernacle itself stood was 50 x 25 yards, or 
slightly less than one quarter the size of a football 
field (100 x 53.33 yards). The walls were made of 
brass posts with silver hooks, over which linen 
curtains were hung. The entrance, which was on 
the east, was 10 yards wide and had colorful 
curtains of blue and scarlet linen. 

The bronze altar. The first thing one saw 
when entering the courtyard was a large bronze 
altar, the altar of burnt offering, where the animals 

(or portions of the animals) brought to the 
tabernacle by the Israelites were burnt. The altar 
was 7 1/2 feet square and 4 1/2 feet high. It was 
hollow, made of wood with brass overlay, and 
with grating inside, halfway up from the bottom. 
The wood was laid on top of the grate, and the 
animals on top of the wood. In the hollow area 
below the grate, ashes and other remains were 
collected, while it also provided access for oxygen 
from below to keep the fire burning. 

The fire in the altar was to be kept burning day 
and night (Leviticus 6:9); it was kindled by fire 
from the Lord Himself (Leviticus 9:24). The smell 
associated with the tabernacle was not the sweet 
smell of incense, but the smell of fire and death — a 
continual reminder that human beings have no 
access to God except as sinners redeemed and set 
free by another’s death: in the Old Testament the 
death of animals, in the New Testament the death of 

The bronze basin. The second item in the 
courtyard, closer to the tabernacle itself, was a 
bronze basin for washing. Aaron and all priests 

had to wash their hands and feet in the water 
before bringing a sacrifice to the altar and before 
entering the tabernacle. It symbolized cleansing 
from sin and may have foreshadowed Christian 
baptism It represented the need for purification 
before approaching the Lord. New Testament 
Christians have been purified and cleansed by the 
shed blood of Jesus. 

The Tabernacle 

The tabernacle itself consisted of two rooms. The 
first room, the Holy Place, was 15 feet high and 
wide and 30 feet long. The second room, the Most 
Holy Place, was exactly half as large: it was a 
cube measuring 15x15x15 feet. 

A tent covered the tabernacle, consisting of 
three layers of coverings. The first was made of 
goat’s hair cloth. Over it was a covering of red 
leather made of ram’s skins. The final covering 
was badger skin (or possibly seal or porpoise 

There was a clear progression in the 
arrangement of the courtyard and the tabernacle. 

Israelites could bring their sacrifices to the altar in 
the courtyard, but beyond the altar only the priests 
could go and enter the Holy Place (after washing 
their hands and feet). But no one could enter the 
Most Holy Place, the place of God’s Presence, 
except the high priest and only once a year, on the 
Great Day of Atonement (see article on The 
Annual Day of Atonement in the chapter on 

The Holy Place 

The first thing that must have struck the priests 
entering the Holy Place was how different it 
smelled. The acrid smells from the altar of burnt 
offering were left behind, and the sweet smell of 
incense filled this room 

The incense altar. The incense altar was 
small, only 3 feet high and 18 inches square. 
Incense was burned on the altar, morning and 
evening (30:8). Its smoke rising into the sky 
symbolized prayer — daily, regular prayer (see also 
Revelation 8:3-5). 

The lampstand. There were no windows in the 

tabernacle, but the coverings may have let in some 
light, since the lampstand was to be lit at twilight 
and to be kept burning from evening until morning 
(27:21; 30:7-8). Made of pure gold, it was 5 feet 
high and 3 1/2 feet across the top. The shape of the 
lampstand, with its seven lamps, is still a common 
symbol in Judaism today: the menorah. 

The lighted lamp symbolizes God’s Word 
(Psalms 105; 119; 2 Peter 1:19) or God’s guidance 
(2 Samuel 22:29; Psalm 18:28). 

The lampstands of Solomon’s temple were 
patterned after this lampstand (which may actually 
have been used in the temple). They were no doubt 
among the treasures taken to Babylon and 
afterward returned (Ezekiel 1:7). 

The lampstand in Herod’s temple, in Jesus’ 
day, may have been one of these lampstands. It was 
taken to Rome when the temple was destroyed in 
a.d. 70 and is represented on the Arch of Titus (see 
photo of The Arch of Titus ). Tradition says that the 
lampstand was later “respectfully deposited in the 
Christian church at Jerusalem” in a.d. 533, but 
nothing further is known of it. 

The table. Finally, there was a table, 27 inches 
high, 18 inches wide, and 3 feet long. On this table 
12 loaves of bread were placed, one for each of 
the 12 tribes of Israel. The loaves were replaced 
every week They represented Israel’s gratitude for 
God’s provisions. 

The Most Holy Place 

The Most Holy Place was the place of the 
presence of God. It was separated from the Holy 
Place by what must have been a superbly beautiful 
curtain, in blue, purple, and scarlet, embroidered 
with cherubim. 

Solomon’s temple, and later Herod’s temple, 
were patterned after the tabernacle, and the Holy 
Place and the Most Holy Place were still 
separated by a curtain, even though the structure 
itself was made of stone and wood. The curtain of 
the temple was torn from top to bottom when 
Christ died (Matthew 27:5 1), signifying that, at that 
moment, the door to God’s presence was open to 

Only one item stood in the Most Holy Place: 

the ark of the covenant. It was a chest made of 
acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It 
measured 45 x 27 x 27 inches. The lid of the ark, 
made of solid gold, was called the “atonement 
cover” (KJX mercy seat). At each end of the cover 
stood a cherub, made of one piece with the 
atonement cover. The cherubim faced each other, 
their wings spread out, and looked down toward 
the atonement cover. We can only speculate exactly 
how they may have looked. 

Inside the ark were four items: the two stone 
tablets on which Moses had received the Ten 
Commandments, a pot of manna, and Aaron’ staff 
(Numbers 17:1-11). These were a continual 
reminder of what was most important: God’s 
covenant with His people (the two tablets), His 
gracious material provisions (the manna), and His 
provision of a way to Him through the priesthood, 
and specifically through the high priest (the staff; 
see also Hebrews 8). 

The ark of the covenant was probably lost in 
the Babylonian captivity. In Revelation 11:19, John 
saw the ark “in the temple.” But that was in a 

vision, certainly not meaning that the actual, 
material ark was there; for in heaven there will be 
“no temple” (Revelation 2 1:22). 

This overview of the tabernacle shows the tent of meeting 

inside the courtyard. The smoke of the sacrificial fire rose, and 
the cloud of the glory of God descended and filled the dwelling. 
In this way the presence of the Lord Most High was revealed to 
His people. 

Constructed in accordance with the plans of God, the front 
part (the Holy Place) of this gold-covered structure was twice 
as long as the back part (the Holy of Holies). 


Laws Concerning Sacrifices, the 
Priesthood, and Sacred Feasts 
Various Laws 

“I am the Lord who brought you up out of 
Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, 
because I am holy. ” 

— Leviticus 11:45 

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge 
against one of your people, but love your 
neighbor as yourself I am the Lord. ” 

— Leviticus 19:18 

The title of this book comes from the Septuagint, 
the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. 
The word Leviticus means “about, or relating to, 

the Levites.” 

The Levites are all those who belong to the 
tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. 
Because God spared the firstborn of Israel in the 
last plague that came over Egypt (Exodus 11:4- 
12:13), all firstborn sons and firstborn animals 
belonged to God. The animals were sacrificed 
while the men were redeemed. To be redeemed, 
the family paid a price to the priest instead of 
giving their firstborn over to the service of the 
temple. God appointed the Levites to take the place 
of the firstborn to serve God. One clan or family of 
the Levites, the family of Aaron, was set apart to 
be priests. The rest of the Levites were to be 
assistants to the priests. Their duties were the care 
of the tabernacle, and later the care of the temple; 
and to be teachers, scribes, musicians, officers, 
and judges. (See on 1 Chronicles 23.) 

The tribe of Levi was the only tribe that did not 
get its own land after the Israelites conquered 
Canaan; instead, they received 48 cities, scattered 
throughout the country (Numbers 35:7; Joshua 
21:19). Since they did not receive land, they could 

not support themselves; they were supported by the 
tithes of the rest of Israel. 

The book of Leviticus contains the bulk of the 
system of laws under which the Hebrew nation 
lived, laws that were administered by the Levitical 
priesthood. These laws were given mostly at 
Mount Sinai, with additions, repetitions, and 
explanations throughout the desert wanderings. 


Old Testament Sacrifices 


OT References Elements 


Burnt offering 

Lev 1 ; 6:8— 1 3: 
8:18-21; 16:24 

Bull. ram. or male bird 
(dove or young pigeon 
for the poor); wholly 
consumed; no dofcct 

Voluntary act of wor- 
ship; atonement for 
unintentional sin in 
goneral; expression of 
devotion, commitment 
and complete surrender 
to God 

Crain offering 

Lev 2; 6: 14-23 

Grain, fine flour, olive 
oil. Incense, baked bread 
(cakes or wafers), salt; 
no yeast or honey; 
accompanied burnt 
offering and fellowship 
offoring (along with 
drink offering) 

Voluntary act of wor- 
ship; recognition of 
God's goodness and 
provisions; devotion to 



Lev 3; 7:1 1-34 

Any animal without 
defect from herd or 
flock; varioty of breads 

Voluntary act of wor- 
ship; thanksgiving and 
fellowship (included a 
communal meal) 

Sin offering 

Lev 4: 1-5: 13; 

1 . Young bull; for high 
priest and congrega- 

2. Male goat; for leader 

3. Female goat or lamb: 
for common person 

4. Dove or pigeon: for 
the poor 

5. Tend) of an ephah of 
fine flour: for the 
very poor 

Mandatory atonoment 
for specific uninten- 
tional sin; confession of 
sin; forgiveness of sin; 
cleansing from defile- 

Guilt offering 

Lev 5:14-6:7; 

Ram or lamb 

Mandatory atonemont 
for unintentional sin 
requiring restitution; 
cleansing from defile- 
ment; make restitution; 
pay 20% fine 

— From The NIV Study Bible. Used by permission. 

I I 


Before the time of Moses, sacrifices were offered 
by heads of families. But now that the nation is 
organized, a place is set apart for sacrifice, a ritual 
is prescribed, and a hereditary priesthood is 
created in a solemn ceremony. Aaron was to be 
high priest, and he was to be succeeded by his 
firstborn son. The priesthood was maintained by 
tithes (one-tenth of a family’s income, whether 
money, livestock, or produce) and parts of some 
sacrifices. They received 13 cities (Joshua 21:13- 

The high priest’s garments. Every detail had 
been specified by God (Exodus 28). A robe of 
blue, with bells at the bottom. 

The ephod, which was a sort of cape or 
sleeveless vestment, consisting of two pieces 
joined on the shoulders, that hung one at the front 
and one on the back of the high priest, with an onyx 
stone on each shoulder, each bearing six names of 
the tribes: made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and 
fine linen. 

The breastplate, about 10 inches square, of 
gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen, double, 
open at the top, fastened with gold chains to the 
Ephod, adorned with 12 precious stones, each 
stone bearing the name of a tribe. The breastplate 
contained the Urim and Thummim, which were 
used to learn the will of God; we don’t know 
exactly what they were, but they were used to cast 

The Divine Origin of the 
Sacrificial System 

God placed the system of sacrifices at the 

very center and heart of Jewish national life. 
Whatever its immediate applications and 
implications may have been to the Jews, the 
unceasing sacrifice of animals and the never- 
ending glow of altar fires were without doubt 
designed by God to burn into the 

consciousness of the people of Israel a sense 
of their deep sinfulness. They were also, for 
more than a millennium, a picture that pointed 
forward to the coming sacrifice of Christ on 
the cross. The Levitical priesthood was 
divinely ordained to be the mediator between 
God and the Hebrew nation through the 
bringing of animal sacrifices. But those 
sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ. Animal 
sacrifices are no longer necessary. Christ 
Himself is our Great High Priest, the only 
Mediator between God and humanity, as 
Hebrews 8-10 makes very clear. Thus Christ 
is both our Sacrifice and our High Priest, our 


The swift and terrible punishment on Nadab and 
Abihu was a warning against highhanded treatment 
of God’s ordinances. It is also a warning to us and 
to church leaders not to distort the Gospel of Christ 
with all kinds of human additions and traditions. 


Before the Flood there was a distinction between 
clean and unclean animals (Genesis 7:2). Through 
Moses this distinction acquired the force of divine 
law. It was based partly on the wholesomeness of 
a particular kind of animal as food, and partly on 
religious considerations, designed to serve as one 
of the marks of separation of Israel from other 
nations. Jesus abrogated the distinction (Mark 

7:19), making all meats clean (see also Acts 10:9— 


The uncleanness of mothers did not result from the 
birth but from the bleeding. There is no clear 
reason why the period of separation was 40 days if 
the baby was a boy, 80 days if it was a girl. 


These regulations were for the purpose of 
controlling the spread of infectious skin diseases, 
of which the most loathsome and dreaded was 
leprosy. The word translated “leprosy” in the KJV 
has a range of meanings, including leprosy, skin 
disease, and even mildew. Primitive as this 
approach may seem to us, these simple measures 

undoubtedly saved many lives. 


The elaborate system of specifications as to how a 
person could become ceremonially unclean and 
what had to be done about it was, it seems, 
designed to promote personal physical cleanliness 
(and thus help prevent illness) as well as a 
continual recognition of God’s involvement in all 
areas of life. 

“Love Your Neighbor as 

This injunction (19:18) is one of the highlights 
of the Mosaic Law. It is the second great 
commandment Jesus quoted (Matthew 22:39; 
the first great commandment — Love the Lord 

your God with all your heart and with all your 
soul and with all your mind — is found in 
Deuteronomy 6:5). The law instructed the 
people to show great consideration to the 
poor. Wages were to be paid day by day. No 
interest was to be charged (“usury” in the KJV 
refers to interest of any kind). Loans and gifts 
were to be made to the needy. A portion of 
the harvest was to be left in the fields for the 
poor. All through the Old Testament, 
unceasing emphasis is placed on kindness to 
widows, orphans, and strangers. The weak 
and the poor are everyone’s responsibility. 


The annual Day of Atonement (still celebrated in 
Judaism today in modified form and known by its 

Hebrew name, YomKippur) fell on the 10th day of 
the seventh month (the month Tishri, see diagram of 
the Jewish Calendar ), ft was the most solemn day 
of the year. Each time, the removal of sin was only 
for one year (Hebrews 10:3), but it pointed 
forward to its eternal removal (Zechariah 3:4, 8-9; 
13:1; Hebrews 10:14). 

After the sacrificial goat had been offered, the 
high priest laid his hands on the head of the 
scapegoat, confessing over him the sins of the 
people. The goat was then sent away into the 
wilderness, bearing away with it the sins of the 
people. This ceremony was one of God’s historical 
foreshadowings of the coming atonement for human 
sin by the death of Christ. 


The Law required the presentation of animals for 
sacrifice at the door of the tabernacle. The eating 
of blood was strictly forbidden (3:17; 7:26-27; 

17:10-16; Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23- 
25), and still is (Acts 15:29). One reason is that 
blood is a symbol of life and as such must be 
treated with respect. To this day, in orthodox 
Judaism, any animal destined for human 
consumption must be slaughtered according to very 
strict regulations and under rabbinic supervision to 
ensure that all the blood has drained out of the 
meat. Only then can the meat be sold as kosher. 



The reason that some of these things, such as 
incest, sodomy, and sexual relations with animals, 
are even mentioned is that they were common 
practice among Israel’s neighbors. 


These chapters contain a number of miscellaneous 
laws, ranging from the Sabbath, to sorcery, to 
kindness to strangers. The diversity of these laws 
shows that God is interested in all aspects of life. 
He did not give laws only to keep Israel from 
doing what was wrong, but also to tell Israel what 
it meant to live as the nation chosen by God and as 
people who loved God. 

Concubinage, polygamy, divorce, and slavery 
were allowed but greatly restricted (19:20; Exodus 
21:2—11; Deuteronomy 21:15; 24:1-4). Moses’ 
Law lifted marriage to a far higher level than 
existed in surrounding nations. Slavery was 
tempered by humane considerations; it never 
existed on a large scale among the Jews, nor with 
such cruelties as were prevalent in Egypt, Assyria, 
Greece, Rome, and other nations. An Israelite 
could not be a slave forever (see on Leviticus 25). 

Capital Punishment in the 
Old Testament 

Capital punishment was required for a number 
of offenses. (The ordinary form of capital 
punishment prescribed by Hebrew law was 

• Murder (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:12; 
Deuteronomy 19:11-13) 

• Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 

• Death by negligence (Exodus 21:28-29) 

• Hitting or cursing a parent (Exodus 
21:15-17; Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 

• Idolatry (Leviticus 20:1-5; Deuteronomy 
13; 17:2-5) 

• Sorcery (Exodus 22:18) 

• False prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:10-11, 
20 ) 

• Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:15-16) 

• Profaning the Sabbath (Exodus 31 : 1 4) 

• Adultery (Leviticus 21:10; Deuteronomy 
22 : 22 ) 

• Rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-27) 

• Promiscuity (Deuteronomy 22: 1 3-21 ) 

• Sodomy (Leviticus 20:13) 

• Bestiality (Leviticus 20:15-16) 

• Incestuous marriages (Leviticus 20:11- 
12, 14) 

The severity of the punishment was not 
arbitrary. These sins were not only offenses 
against God and fellow human beings — they 
undermined and weakened the social fabric 
and in the long run put the continued existence 
of the people of God — the nation of Israel — in 

i i 

Lev. 21-22 PRIESTS AND 

These chapters are an elaboration on the 

provisions of chapters 1-9. Priests must be without 
physical defect and may marry only a virgin. 
Sacrificial animals must also be without defect and 
at least eight days old. 

Lev. 23-24 FEASTS, LAWS 


For a description of the feasts of Israel, see 
comments on Deuteronomy 16. 

The lamp in the tabernacle was to burn 
perpetually. The bread placed before the Lord 
(Kjy showbread) was to be changed each 
Sabbath. Blasphemy was to be punished with 

An eye for an eye (24:19-21). This 
legislation was not intended to give permission for 
revenge, but rather the opposite: it severely limited 
revenge or retaliation to what was just, instead of 
allowing a cycle of retaliation and counter- 

retaliation to spin out of control (see on Matthew 
5:38 and Luke 6:27). 

These Laws Were the Laws 
of God 

Some of the laws in the Pentateuch are 
similar to the laws of Hammurabi (see The 
Time of the Patriarchs: Genesis 12-50 ). with 
which Moses no doubt was well-acquainted. 
And though Moses may have been influenced 
by his Egyptian training and by Babylonian 
tradition, yet over and over he repeats, “This 
is what the Lord says!” These laws were not 
dreamed up by Moses or by a legal think- 
tank, or arrived at democratically — they were 
given to Israel by God Himself. 

Some of these laws may seem severe to us. 
But if we could transport ourselves back to 
Moses’ world and time, they probably would 
not seem severe enough. On the whole, the 

“Law of Moses,” in its insistence on personal 
morality and personal equality, and in its 
consideration for old and young, for slave and 
enemy, for animals and health and food, was 
far purer, more rational, humane, and 
democratic than anything else in ancient 

Moses’ Law was designed by God as a 
schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 
3:24 KJV), since it showed that no one was 
able to fully keep the Law. And some of the 
provisions of the Law were accommodations, 
“because your hearts were hard” (Matthew 

Ownership of Land 

The land of Canaan was divided among the 
12 tribes when the Israelites entered Canaan 

under Joshua (Joshua 13-21), and the land of 
each tribe was divided among the families. 
With certain exceptions, the land could not be 
sold in perpetuity out of the families. 

Any sale of land amounted to a lease that 
expired in the Year of Jubilee, when it would 
be returned to the original family. This 
arrangement, if implemented, provided for 
social stability and prevented to a large extent 
the formation of a wealthy, landed upper class 
and a dispossessed underclass. 


Every seventh year was a Sabbath year. The land 
was to lie fallow. No sowing, no reaping, no 
pruning of vineyards. Spontaneous produce was to 
be left for the poor and the temporary resident 

(KJV sojourner). God promised enough in the sixth 
year to meet the needs of the seventh year. Debts of 
fellow Jews were to be canceled. 

Every 50th year was a Year of Jubilee. It 
followed the seventh Sabbath Year, so that two 
years of rest would come together. It began on the 
Day of Atonement. All debts were canceled, 
slaves of Israelite origin were set free, and lands 
that had been sold were returned. (This was 
intended to ensure that a family’s land would 
remain in the family in perpetuity.) Jesus seemed to 
regard the Year of Jubilee as a sort of picture of 
the rest He came to proclaim for God’s people 
(Leviticus 25:10; Luke 4:19). 


This chapter of magnificent promises and frightful 
warnings is, like Deuteronomy 28, one of the great 
chapters of the Bible. 


Vows were a voluntary promise to God to perform 
some service or do something pleasing to Him in 
return for some hoped benefits. A vow had to be 
spoken to be binding (Deuteronomy 23:23). 
Israelites made special vows by promising or 
dedicating persons, animals, houses, family land, 
or land they had purchased to the service of the 
temple. In most cases, however, an equivalent 
value or price was paid to the priest for the person 
or thing being dedicated. When the price had been 
paid, the person or thing was said to have been 

“If you follow my decrees and are 
careful to obey my commands, I will 
send you rain in its season, and the 
ground will yield its crops and the trees 
of the field their fruit. Your threshing will 
continue until grape harvest and the 

grape harvest will continue until planting, 
and you will eat all the food you want 
and live in safety in your land. I will 
grant peace in the land, and you will lie 
down and no one will make you afraid. ” 

— Leviticus 26:3-6 

This idea of redemption is carried forward into 
the New Testament in Galatians 3:13, where Christ 
is said to have redeemed us “from the curse of the 
law by becoming a curse for us.” In 1 Corinthians 
6:19-20, Paul teaches the early Christians, “You 
are not your own; your were bought at a price.” 
One-tenth of the produce of the land and of the 
increase of flocks and herds was to be given to 
God; this is called the tithe (Genesis 14:20; 28:22; 
Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21-28; 
Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 11, 17-18; 14:23, 28-29; 
26:12; the word tithe is derived from the Old 
English word for tenth). 

The Number Seven in the 
Law of M oses 

The number 7 played a significant symbolic 
role in the Mosaic Law. 

• Every 7th day was a Sabbath. 

• Every 7th year was a Sabbath year. 

• Every 7th Sabbath year (7 x 7) was 
followed by a Year of Jubilee. 

• Every 7th month was especially holy, with 
three feasts. 

• There were 7 weeks between Passover 
and Pentecost. 

• The Passover Feast lasted 7 days. 

• The Feast of Tabernacles lasted 7 days. 

• At the Passover, 14 lambs (twice 7) were 
offered daily. 

• At the Feast of Tabernacles, 14 lambs 
(twice 7), and 70 bullocks were offered 

• At Pentecost, 7 lambs were offered. 

(See sidebar The Number Seven in Revelation 
in the chapter on Revelation) 

Three tithes are mentioned in the Old 
Testament: the Levitical tithe, the festival tithe, and 
every third year the tithe for the poor. Some think 
there was only one tithe that was used partly for 
festivals and every third year partly for the poor. 
Others think that the festival tithe was taken out of 
the nine-tenths left after the Levitical tithe had been 

The tithe was in use long before the days of 
Moses. Abraham and Jacob paid tithes. Among the 
Jews the tithe was for the support of the Levites, 
who functioned both as civil officials and in 
religious service (see on 1 Chronicles 23). 

God claimed as His own not only the tithes, but 
also the firstborn sons of all families (in place of 
whom He accepted the tribe of Levi), the firstborn 
of all flocks and herds, and firstfruits of the field. 
The firstfruits of the harvest were to be offered at 
Passover, and no part of the new crop could be 

used until this had been done (Leviticus 23:14). 
The first crop of a young orchard (the fourth year) 
was to be given to God in its entirety, and no fruit 
of the orchard could be used until this was done. 
The clear lesson is: Put God first in life. 


The 40 Years in the Desert 
Israel’s Journey to the Promised Land 

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord 
make his face shine upon you and be 
gracious to you; the Lord turn his face 
toward you and give you peace. ” 

— Numbers 6:24-26 

The Lord s anger burned against Israel and 
he made them wander in the desert forty 
years, until the whole generation of those 
who had done evil in his sight was gone. 

— Numbers 32:13 

Numbers begins with the Lord organizing Israel 
into an army en route to establish God’s kingdom 

in the Promised Land. Throughout the journey we 
see the Israelites’ rebellion as well as God’s anger 
against their disobedience. But despite God’s 
judgment, He is faithful in bringing Israel into the 
land of promise. We see God’s grace renewed time 
and time again. 


This census, taken at Mount Sinai, showed 603,550 
males above the age of 20, not including Levites 
(vv. 45-47). Another census, taken 38 years later, 
showed 601,730 males above 20 (see on chapter 


Every detail was assigned with military precision. 
This was necessary in handling so vast a crowd of 
people. The tribes were arranged in specific 

locations around the tabernacle when they camped, 
and they also had a specific marching order when 
they traveled. The arrangement (see diagram that 
follows) allowed for an orderly transition from 
camping to traveling. 

Judah and the eastern tribes led the march. The 
tabernacle was protected by the southern and 
western tribes to the south and north respectively, 
while the northern tribes brought up the rear. 

Encampment of the Tribes of Israel 

Numbers 2: 1 -3 1 Numbers 1 0: 1 1 -33 


What stands out in these chapters is the beautiful 
priestly blessing (6:24-26). The Hebrew word 
shalorn does not mean quite the same as our word 
“peace.” It is not merely absence of war or co nf lict 
(although it includes that) or a peaceful feeling. 
Rather, it means wholeness, well-being, harmony. 


The offerings of the leaders of the 12 tribes (chap. 
7) are all exactly the same. To us, repeating the 
same list 12 times seems redundant and boring, but 
to the Hebrew mind it emphasizes the solemnity 
and seriousness of the event. Also, each tribe, 
regardless of its size, gave the same gifts, so no 
tribe can later claim precedence. 

For the presence of God in the cloud (9:15- 
25), see on Exodus 13:21. 

i l 

Num. 10-11 THEY SET 

The people stayed at Mount Sinai for one year. 
Then the cloud lifted. The silver trumpets sounded. 
Judah led the march. And they were on their way. 

Within three days, at Taberah, they began to 
complain (10:33; 11:1—3). That was their specialty 
— they knew how to complain. God sent them 
quail, but He also sent a plague (see on Exodus 


Before it was all over, poor Miriam wished she 

had never started the thing. Moses was “very 
humble” (v. 3). The KJV says he was “very meek.” 
What an admirable trait in one of the greatest men 
of the ages! Jesus, quoting Psalm 37:11, said, 
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the 
earth” (Matthew 5:5; see 11:29). 

Num. 13-14 THE 12 SPIES SENT 

Moses planned to go directly from Mount Sinai to 
Canaan. He went straight to Kadesh, 150 miles 
north of Sinai and 50 miles south of Beersheba, the 
southern gateway to Canaan, intending to enter at 

But the spies brought a discouraging report, 
and the people refused to go forward. In fact, they 
would have stoned Moses if it had not been for 
God’s miraculous intervention. This was the 
crucial point of the journey. Within sight of the 
Promised Land, they turned back. For them the 
opportunity never returned — God could no longer 

turn away from their continuous rebellion. Because 
of their disobedience to undertake the conquest of 
Canaan, this group forfeited their entrance into the 
Promised Land. They were condemned to live out 
their lives wandering in the desert. Only their 
children would experience the joy previously 
planned for them. Caleb and Joshua, the two spies 
who wanted to go forward, were the only ones of 
the 600,000 men over 20 who lived to enter 

Num. 15-19 VARIOUS LAWS; 

Korah, jealous of Moses, sought to usurp his 
leadership. Moses went straight to God, and God 
settled the matter in no time. The earth opened, and 
the rebels went down. 

Moses’ Troubles 

Moses surely had a lot of troubles. No sooner 
was he out of Egypt than trouble began. The 
Amalekites attacked immediately, and a year 
later, at Kadesh, the Edomites, Moabites, 
Ammonites, Amorites, and Midianites all 
joined hands to block Israel’s path to Canaan. 
And his own people, who had been delivered 
out of Egypt and sustained by marvelous 
miracles, grumbled and grumbled, and 
complained and complained, and rebelled and 
rebelled. They began complaining while still in 
Egypt. Then at the Red Sea. Then at Marah. 
Then in the Desert of Zin (KJV, Wilderness of 
Sin). Then again at Rephidim, at Taberah, at 
Hazeroth, and at Meribah. Now, at Kadesh, in 
sight of the Promised Land, they flatly refused 
to go farther, which must have almost broken 
Moses’ heart. 

Besides all this, Moses had no end of trouble 
with his own trusted leaders. Aaron made the 
golden calf at Sinai. Miriam and Aaron tried to 

usurp his authority (chap. 12). Ten of the 12 
spies led the people in their refusal to enter 
Canaan. The people were ready to stone 
Moses (14:10; Exodus 17:4). 

And, last of all, Moses was not permitted to 
enter the Promised Land himself — the lifetime 
dream of his heart. 

Except for the miraculous grace of God, we 
do not see how he could have borne up under 
it all. But when, on the banks of the Jordan 
River, God took him to see the “land that I 
promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob” (32:11), Moses understood. 


There seems to be a gap of 38 years between 
chapters 19 and 20, covering the period between 

the first arrival at Kadesh (13:26) and the final 
departure from Kadesh for Canaan. In chapter 33 
there is a list of encampments, 40 in all, from 
Egypt to the Plains of Moab. Of these, 18 were 
between Rithmah and Kadesh. We judge, from the 
expression “in Kadesh many days” (Deuteronomy 
1:46) and the mention of these 18 encampments 
between the first and second arrivals at Kadesh, 
that Kadesh may have been a sort of general 
headquarters or home base, with the people 
traveling to these other encampments as God 
directed. They would remain for some time at one 
spot, with their flocks and herds on the surrounding 
hills and valleys, and then move on. 

Moses’ sin, which cost him his entry into the 
Promised Land, appears to have been his failure to 
give God credit for the miracle of water out of the 
rock (10:12). It may also have been due to his 
failure to believe that a word alone could bring 
forth water. His striking of the rock twice with his 
staff showed a lack of trust in God and disrespect 
toward His holiness. 

An oasis in the Sinai Desert. These small patches of green in 
the vast expanses of sand and rock indicate the presence of 
water — but not necessarily enough water for a large nation. 
When God gave the Israelites water from the rock, it was not 
merely a display of His power — it was a matter of survival for 
His people. 

Miriam, Aaron, and Moses all died in the same 
year. Miriam died at Kadesh (20:1), Aaron at 
Mount Hor (20:28), and Moses on Mount Nebo 
(Deuteronomy 32:50; 34:1, 5). Miriam was about 
130 years old; Aaron, 123; and Moses, the 
youngest of the siblings, a mere 120. 


Perhaps the coalition of Amalekites and 
Canaanites just to the north of Kadesh seemed too 
strong for Israel to attempt the direct route to 
Hebron. At any rate, God had other plans. They 
started eastward, to go up along the eastern shore 
of the Dead Sea, through the territory of Edom. But 
the Edomites (the descendants of Jacob’s brother 
Esau, Genesis 25:30) refused permission. 

Moses then turned south, down the Arabah, the 
desolate valley that extends from the Dead Sea 
south to the Red Sea, “a vast and dreadful desert,” 
for the long, circuitous, and hazardous route around 
Edom and Moab, and then north, along the borders 
of Arabia, to the Plains of Moab, opposite Jericho, 
just east of the north end of the Dead Sea. God 
commanded Moses not to do the Edomites, 
Moabites, or Ammonites harm, even though they 
tried to stop Israel. 

The bronze snake (21:6-9) is a 
foreshadowing of the Gospel. As those who were 
bitten by the poisonous snakes looked to the bronze 
snake and were healed, so we, who have been 
wounded by sin, if we look to Jesus, will live 
(John 3: 14). 

The bronze snake was preserved, but at some 
point the Israelites turned it into an idol, called it 
Nehushtan, and began burning incense to it. It was 
destroyed by King Hezekiah 700 years after Moses 
made it (2 Kings 18:4). 

The conquest of Gilead and Bashan (21:21— 
35). The Amorites, who had crossed to the east of 
the Jordan, attacked Israel. Moses had refrained 
from attacking any of the nations through whose 
country they marched. But now that the Amorites 
attacked, the Israelites fought back and took their 
country. Then Bashan attacked and was defeated as 
well. The region east of the Jordan now belonged 
to the Israelites. 

Barnea. Kadesh Barnea is located on the 

southwestern border of the land of Canaan. From 
there the Israelites sent spies into the land of 
Canaan, and after having been forbidden to enter 
the land because of disbelief, they evidently spent 
a good portion of the 38 years of their 
“wanderings” camped in the vicinity. Kadesh 
(Barnea) is usually identified with a series of 
good-sized springs located in the region of Ain 
Qudeirat and Ain Qudeis. This area is located 
about 50 miles southwest of Beersheba. 
Archaeological excavations have revealed the 
remains of a series of small fortresses from the 
10th to 6th centuries B.c., but no actual physical 
remains from the time of the Israelite encampment 

Num. 22-25 BALAAM 

Balaam’s prophecies were a remarkable 
prediction of Israel’s influential place in history 
through a “Star” that would arise out of Jacob 
(24:17). Though God used him to speak true 

prophecy, Balaam, for money, was the instigator of 
Israel’s shameful sin with Moabite and Midianite 
women, for which Balaam was slain and 24,000 
Israelites perished (31:8, 16; 25:9). And Balaam’s 
name became a synonym for false teachers (2 Peter 
2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2: 14). 

How Could the Desert 
Support 272 Million People 
for 40 Years? 

Only by the direct miraculous help of God. 
The miracles were so continuous and so 
stupendous that the clear intent of the record 
is to show that it could not have been done 
except by the hand of God. To those who find 
it difficult to believe these things, we answer 
that it is easier to believe them, exactly as 
they are recorded, than to believe the strange 
and fanciful theories invented to discredit 
them. The events in the wilderness are in 

accord with the entire Bible story. The 
numbers recorded may be a misreading of 
the text. Perhaps the “thousands” were “clan 
groups.” If so, it might be possible to 
drastically reduce the totals without doing 
injustice to the text. 

The purpose of the wilderness miracles may 
have been 

• To preserve the nation; in God’s plan the 
nation had been established to pave the 
way for a coming Messiah. 

• To teach the nation, which had been 
nurtured in Egyptian idolatry, faith in the 
one, true God; and to give them concrete 
proof, which would be a reminder for all 
time to come that God can be trusted in 
all the circumstances of life. 

• To impress the surrounding nations, 
particularly the Canaanites, with the fact 
that the movement of Israel toward 
Canaan was of God, and that it would be 

with God, rather than merely a group of 
people without much fighting experience, 
that they would have to reckon. 

Aside from various accompanying miracles, 
the transplanting of a whole nation from one 
land to another, meanwhile maintaining it for 
40 years in a desert, was in itself one of the 
most stupendous miracles of the ages. 


Wilderness life must have been hard. Of the more 
than 600,000 males above the age of 20 that were 
included in the first census (chap. 1), only two 
survived. The younger generation, hardened by the 
desert, were a different class of men from what 
their fathers had been as slaves freshly freed from 
a hard but predictable life, from the “flesh pots” 
(KJV; NIV “pots of meat,” Exodus 16:3) of Egypt. 

Num. 27-36 VARIOUS 

For the feasts and offerings (chaps. 28-29), see 
Leviticus , and the article on Feasts in 

For the settling of 2 1/2 tribes east of the 
Jordan (chap. 32) and directions for the division of 
the land (chap. 34), see on Joshua 13. 

For the Levitical cities (chap. 35), see on 
Joshua 2 1 . 

For the Jewish calendar, see Jewish Calendar . 

The Miracles of Moses 

While miracles are a conspicuous feature of 
the Bible, they are not abundant in all parts of 
the Bible. Miracles (not including prophecies 
and their fulfillment), are particularly 
noticeable in four periods, centuries apart: 

• The period of the Exodus and the 
conquest of Canaan (Moses and Joshua) 

• The period of struggle against idolatry 
(Elijah and Elisha) 

• The period of the Babylonian captivity 

• The period of Jesus and the Apostles 

Aside from Jesus, it has never been given to 
any man to be the mediator of so many 
stupendous manifestations of divine power: 
the 10 plagues on Egypt, the crossing of the 
Red Sea, the water that was made sweet at 
Marah, the provision of quail in the Desert of 
Zin and at Taberah, the manna that was 
supplied daily for 40 years, the Ten 
Commandments written on a stone with God’s 
finger, God’s talking face-to-face with Moses 
so that Moses’ face shone, to name but a 

Moses could not have delivered Israel out of 
Egypt and sustained them in the wilderness 

for 40 years without the direct miraculous help 
of God. But this high privilege, as in the case 
of the apostle Paul, was accompanied by 
almost unbelievable suffering. 

0 *0 20 mw 


Moses’ Farewell Address: 

A Treaty Between God and Israel 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart 
and with all your soul and with all your 

— Deuteronomy 6:5 

The eternal God is your refuge, 

and underneath are the everlasting arms. 

— Deuteronomy 33:27 

The title of this book, Deuteronomy, comes from 
the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible, 
and means “second law,” or “repetition of the 
law.” In Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, many 
laws had been given to the Israelites. Now, at the 

border of Canaan, with the people ready to enter 
the land at last, these laws are rehearsed and 
expounded, in anticipation of — and with 

applications to — settled life in Canaan. The form 
is that of a formal treaty between God and His 
people (see sidebar Deuteronomy: A Treaty 
Between God and Israel in the chapter 

Many parts of Deuteronomy can be read not 
only for their content, but also for the sheer 
eloquence and beauty of their language. 


A retrospective summary of Numbers 1-33. After 
one of the noblest and most heroic 
accomplishments of the ages, Moses’ final appeal 
to God to let him go over the Jordan was denied 
(3:23-28) — because God had something better for 
him, in a better world (see Hebrews 11:28-34, 

Deut. 4-5 CLING TO GOD’S 

Earnest exhortations to observe God’s 
commandments, to teach them diligently to their 
children, and to shun idolatry — with the ever- 
recurring reminder that their safety and prosperity 
would depend on their loyalty and obedience to 

The Ten Commandments (chap. 5) are also 
found in Exodus 20. 

Deuteronomy: A Treaty 
Between God and Israel 

The book of Deuteronomy is more than simply 
a restatement of the Law. It is, in fact, a 
formal treaty between God and the people of 

The discovery in 1906-07 of some 10,000 
tablets in the ancient Hittite capital Khattusa 
(Boghaz-koy in modem Turkey) provided 
examples of Hittite treaties that show that 
Deuteronomy has all the elements contained 
in Hittite treaties from the 2nd millennium b.c., 
largely in the same sequence, as the chart 
below shows. 

Joshua 24 also follows the treaty format. 

Order of Sections 

in Hittite Treaties Description Deut. Joshua 24 

of Speaker 

Identifies the author and his right 
to proclaim the treaty 


vv. 1 —2 



Survey of past relationship 
between parties 


vv. 2— 1 3 


Listing of obligations 

chaps. 4—26 

vv. 14—25 
v. 26 




Storage and instructions for 
public reading 


Usually identifies the gods who 
arc called on to witness the oath 



vv. 22. 27 

Curses and 

How the deity will respond to 
adherence or violation of the 

chap. 28 





Deut. 6 THE 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is 

one (v. 4): This is the beginning of the Jewish 
confession of faith (vv. 6-9), the Shema (Hebrew 
for “hear”). 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart 
and with all your soul and with all your strength” 
(v. 5). This is repeated over and over (10:12; 11:1, 
13, 22) and was reemphasized by Jesus (Matthew 
22:37) and given first place in His teaching. 

The Israelites were not to rely only on public 
instruction to keep God’s ideas and the knowledge 
of Him alive among His people; they were to teach 
them diligently at home (6:6-9). Because books 
were few and scattered, the people were to write 
certain important parts of the Law on their 
doorposts, bind them on their arms and foreheads, 
and talk of them constantly. Although this command 
may have been intended as a figure of speech, it 
later gave rise to mezusas (small boxes with a 
piece of Scripture in them, attached to doorposts) 

and phylacteries (small containers with a piece of 
Scripture that are strapped to the arm and the 
forehead) that are worn to this day on certain 
occasions in orthodox Jewish circles. 

Man does not live on bread alone but on 
every word that comes from the mouth 
of the Lord. 

— Deuteronomy 8:3 


The Israelites were to destroy the Canaanites and 
all their idols. They should not make any 
agreements or covenants with them, nor should 
they intermarry with them. This sharp division was 
necessary in order to save Israel from idolatry and 
its abominations. 

Behind these very strict commands stands 
God’s love for Israel, stated in some of the most 
beautiful verses in Scripture (7:6-11). It was not 
because Israel was better or more important than 
other nations — it was that God had chosen Israel 
simply because He loved them. 


For 40 years God had humbled and tested them — 
and fed them with manna, while their clothes did 
not wear out and their feet did not swell (v. 4) — 
that they might learn to trust God and live by His 
Word (2-5). 

Deut. 9-10 ISRAEL’S 

Three times over, Israel is reminded that God’s 
wondrous dealings with them were not because 

they were so righteous (9:4, 5, 6) — they had been a 
rebellious and stubborn people all the way. 


This great chapter, like chapters 6 and 28, is an 
appeal for devotion to God’s Word and obedience 
to His commandments as the basis for national 
prosperity, with wonderful promises and ominous 

Deut. 12-15 VARIOUS 

All idols must be destroyed. Moses, reared in the 
hotbed of Egyptian idolatry and surrounded all his 
life by idol-worshiping peoples, never made any 
compromise with idolatry. And his repeated 
warnings came true: idolatry did turn out to be the 
ruin of the nation. 

“Rejoice” is a favorite word in the Psalms and 
in the New Testament Epistles; note how often the 
word is used in Deuteronomy (12:7, 12, 18; 14:26; 
16:11; 26:11; 32:43; 33:18). 

Clean and unclean animals (14:1-21), see on 
Leviticus 11. 

Tithes (14:22-29), see on Leviticus 27. 

Sabbath year (15:1-11), see onLeviticus 25. 
Slavery (15: 12-18), see onLeviticus 19. 
Lirstfruits (15:19-23), see onLeviticus 27. 

Deut. 16 FEASTS 

Three times a year all male Israelites were 
required to appear before God: at the feasts of 
Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Besides 
these three there were other feasts, chief among 
them the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This 
was the only day of the year the high priest was 
allowed to enter the Most Holy Place (KJYI Holy 
of Holies); see Leviticus 16. 

Israel’s feasts were designed to keep God in 

the thought of the people and, on a practical level, 
to promote national unity. Later, when the northern 
ten tribes seceded and formed the northern 
kingdom (Israel), Jeroboam I realized that if his 
people continued to worship the God of Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob, they would have to go to 
Jerusalem in the southern kingdom (Judah) three 
times a year. Making a clean break with the 
southern kingdom was politically essential, which 
is why Jeroboam instituted a “new” national 
religion and set up pagan altars at Bethel and Dan 
in the south and north of his kingdom. 

Feasts in Israel 

• The Passover and the Feast of 
Unleavened Bread were kept in the 
spring and lasted seven days. They 
commemorated Israel’s deliverance in the 
Exodus from Egypt. Passover was 
celebrated at the beginning of the 

religious year. 

• Pentecost, also called the Feast of 
Weeks, of Harvest, or of Firstfruits, was 
kept on the 50th day after the Passover 
and lasted one day. 

• Tabernacles, also called the Feast of 
Ingathering, was kept five days after the 
Day of Atonement and lasted seven 

• The Feast of Trumpets (later called 
Rosh Hashanah or New Year’s Day), on 
the 1st day of the 7th month, ushered in 
the civil year (see on Numbers 28). 

• The Day of Atonement, see on Leviticus 


God here foretold that Israel would have a king, 
adding some instructions and some warnings 
(17:14-20). The monarchy would not come until 
several centuries later (see on 1 Samuel 8). 

When in the days of Samuel the people asked 
for a king, Samuel told them that, in asking for a 
king, the people were rejecting God. This is not a 
contradiction. The fact that God foreknew does not 
mean that He approved — only that He foreknew 
what they would want and that He wanted to be 
consulted in their choice. In rejecting the form of 
government that God had given them — a theocracy 
(literally, “rule of God”; compare with democracy, 
“rule of the people”) — they were rejecting God. 
Note that the kings were to be lifelong readers of 
God’s Word (vv. 18-20). What a suggestion to 
present-day rulers! Note also that the kings began 
to do right away what God had said they should not 
do: multiply to themselves wives and horses and 
gold (16-17; 1 Kings 10:14-29; 11:1-13). 


This prediction (18:15-19) may have a secondary 
reference to the prophetic order as a whole, that is, 
to the succession of prophets, such as Isaiah and 
Joel, whom God would raise up for emergencies in 
Israel’s history. But the language of this prediction 
unmistakably points to one specific individual: the 
Messiah. It is one of the most specific predictions 
of Christ in all of the Old Testament. Jesus Himself 
so understood it (John 5:46), as did Peter (Acts 

The Hebrew nation was founded by God as the 
medium through which one day all nations would 
be blessed. Here is an explicit statement that the 
system on which the Hebrew nation was now being 
organized — the one given through Moses, the Law 
— would not be the system by which Israel would 
bless all nations; the Law would be superseded by 
another system, given by another prophet, which 
would contain God’s message to all nations. 
Judaism was to be fulfilled in and superseded by 

the Gospel. 

Old Testament Feasts and Other Sacred Days 


OT References 

OT Time 




Ex 20:8-1 1:31: 12— 17: 
Lev 23:3: Dt 5:12-15 

7th day 


Sabbath Year 

Ex 23: 10- II; Lev 25:1-7 

7th year 


Year of jubilee 

Lev 25:8-55:27:17-24; 
Nu 36:4 

50th year 
after 7 x 7 



Ex 12: 1-14; Lev 233. 
Nu *1-14:28:16; 

Dt 161 -3a, 4b -7 

1st month 
(Abib) 14 

Mar. -Apr. 



Ex 12:15-20.13:3-10: 

23:15: 34: 18; Lev 23:6-8; 

Nu 28:1 7-25; Dt 16:3b. 4a. 8 

1 st month 

(ANb) 15-21 

Mar. -Apr 


Lev 23:9-14 

1st month 
(Ab»b) 16 

Mar. -Apr. 




Ex 23:16a; 34 22a; 

Lev 23:l5-2l;Nu 
28:26-3 l;Dt 16:9-12 

3rd month 
(Sivan) 6 

May -June 

Trumpets (Later: 
Rosh Hashanah— 
New Year's Day) 

Lev 23:23-25: 
Nu 29: 1 -6 

7th month 
(Tishri) 1 

Sepr -Oct. 

Day of Atonement 
(Yom Kippur) 

Lev 16:23:26-32; 
Nu 29:7-11 

7th month 
(Tishri) 10 





Ex 23: 16b; 34:22b; 

Lev 23:33-36a. 39-43; 
Num 29; 12-34; Dt 
16:13-15; Zee 14:16-19 

7th month 
(Tishri) 15-21 


Sacred Assembly 

Lev 23:36b; Nu 29:35-38 

7th month 
(Tishri) 22 



Est 9:18-32 

1 2th month 
(Adar) 14-15 

Feb. -Mar. 

On Kislev 25 (mid -Dec.} Hanufckah, the Feast of Dedication, or Festival of Lights, commem- 
orated the purification of the temple and altar in the Maccabean penod ( 1 65 /4 B.C.). This feast 



NT References 

Day of rest no woric 

Rest for people 
and animals 

Mi 12:1-14; 28:l;Lk 
4;l6;JnS:*Ac 13:41 
Col 2:16: Heb 4:1-11 

Year of rest: faHow fields 

Rest for land 

Canceled debts; liberation of 
slaves and indentured servants: land 
returned to original family owners 

Help for poor; 
stabilize society 

Slaying and eaung a lamb, together 
with bitter herbs and bread made 
without yeast in every household 

Israels deliverance 
from Egypt 

Mt 26:l7;Mk 14 12-26: 
Jn 2:13:11:55:1 Co 5:7; 
Heb 11:28 

Eating bread made without 
yeast holding several assemblies, 
making designated offerings 

Remember how the 
Lord brought the 
Israelites outof Egypt 
in haste 

Mk 1 4: 1 : Ac 12:3; 
1 Co 5:6-8 

Presenting a sheaf of the first 
of the barley harvest as a wave 
offering; makmg a burnt offering 
and a gram offering 

Recognize the 
Lord's bounty in 
the land 

Ro 8:23; 

1 Co 15:20-23 

A festival of fO y. mandatory and 
voluntary offerings, including the 
firstfrmts of the wheat harvest 

Show joy and thankful- 
ness for the Lord's 
blessing of harvest 

Ac 2:1-4,20:16: 
1 Co 16:8 

An assembly on a day of rest 
commemorated with trumpet 
blasts and sacrifices 

Present brad before 
the Lord for Hu favor 

A day of rest, fasting, and 
sacrifices of atonement for 
pnests and people and atonement 
for the tabernacle and akar 

Cleanse priests and 
people from their 
sms and punfy the 
Holy Place 

Ro 3:24-26. Heb 
9:7 103. 19-22 

A week of celebration for the 
harvest: kving tn booths and 
offering sacrifices 

Memorialize the 
journey from Egypt 
to Canaan; give thanks 
for the productivity 
of Canaan 

)n 7:2.37 

A day of convocation, 
rest, and offering sacrifices 

Commemorate the ckwmg 
of the cycle of feasts 

A day of |oy and feasting and 
giving presents 

Remind the hraelites of 
their national deliverance 
m the time of Esther 

is mentioned in In 10:22. In addition, new moons were often special feast days (No 1 0: 10: 
1 Ch 23:31: Exr 3:5: Ne 10:13: Ps 81 :3: ha 1:13-14: 66:23: Hoi 5:7: Am 8 5: Col 2:16) 

— from TV MV 6Vr Uwd by pr«n»i«n 


These cities provided sanctuary for those who had 
caused accidental death — they were safe from 
prosecution or revenge here. Moses had already 
set aside three such cities east of the Jordan: 
Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan (Deuteronomy 4:41— 
43). Later Joshua set aside three cities of refuge 
west of the Jordan: Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron. 
All six cities of refuge were Levitical cities and 
are included in the total of 48 cities given to the 
Levites (Numbers 35:6). 


Those who had built a new house, or had planted a 
new vineyard, or were engaged to be married, or 
were afraid or fainthearted were to be excused 

from military service. The Canaanites were to be 
destroyed — but food-bearing trees should be 

A nawami, or burial place, in the Sinai Desert. These 
structures date back to 3400-3150 B.C. and thus were 
already almost 2000 years old when the Israelites traveled 
through the region. 

Deut. 21-26 VARIOUS LAWS 

These laws range from matters such as public 
atonement in the case of an unsolved murder 
(21:1-9), to a rebellious son (if he does not accept 
discipline he must be put to death, 21:18-21), to 
the requirement of building a parapet or rail 
around the flat roof of a house (22:8). 

The variety of these laws and the large and 
small issues they cover show God’s concern for 
His people as well as His concern for social 
justice and the protection of the weak — even a bird 
sitting on eggs is protected by God (22:6-7). 

We may well wonder whether the practical 
holiness reflected in God’s laws has been 
improved upon by our “enlightened” laws, more 
than three millennia later. 

Deut. 27 THE LAW TO BE 

The law was to be recorded on large stones once 
Israel had crossed the Jordan. Joshua, who had 

been one of the two spies who wanted to enter 
Canaan 40 years before and who became Moses’ 
successor, did this (Joshua 8:30-32). In an age 
when books were scarce, it was a custom to record 
laws on stones and set them up in various cities, so 
the people could know them This was done in 
Egypt and in Babylonia, for example, with the 
Code of Hammurabi (see The Time of the 
Patriarchs: Genesis 12-50 T Moses commanded 
Israel to make this the very first thing they did on 
arrival in Canaan. The stones were to be covered 
with plaster on which the laws were to be written 
“very clearly” (v. 28). 

Deut. 28 THE GREAT 

Chapter 28 is the “curses and blessings” section of 
the treaty between God and Israel (see the chapter 
on Deuteronomy ). Here the consequences of both 
obedience and disobedience to the “stipulations” 
of the covenant are presented. This chapter is the 

foundation for the message of the prophets, who 
would again and again remind Israel of their 
obligations to God (which as a nation they had 
willingly accepted) and the consequences of their 
disobedience. From this chapter flow both the 
prophecies of impending doom that permeate most 
of the prophetic writings, as well as the promise of 
restoration: if God’s people turn back to Him, God 
will honor His covenant and bless them Verses 
58-68 are a grim reflection of the realities of the 
last centuries: the dispersion of the Jews (the 
Diaspora), their wanderings, unceasing 
persecutions, their trembling of heart and pining of 
soul, even until the present time. 

Deut. 29-30 THE COVENANT 

Moses’ last words, as he envisions the fearful 
consequences of disobedience and apostasy, are, 
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, 
death and destruction” (30:15). Serving God is the 

way of life; serving idols leads to certain death. 


Forty years earlier, Moses had written God’s 
words in a book (Exodus 17:14; 24:4, 7). He had 
also kept a diary of his journeys (Numbers 33:2). 
Now his book was completed, and he handed it 
over to the priests and Levites, with instructions 
that it must be read periodically to the people. 

The constant teaching of God’s written Word to 
the people is the safest and most effective way to 
guard against the corruption of their religion. When 
Israel gave heed to God’s Word, they prospered. 
When they neglected it, they suffered adversity. 

Reading of God’s book brought about the great 
reformation under Josiah (2 Kings 23) and the 
renewal under Ezra (Nehemiah 8) — and the 
Reformation that began with Luther’s reading of 

the Word of God. The New Testament books were 
written to be read in the churches (Colossians 
4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). God’s Word is the 
power of God in the human heart. Oh, that the 
present-day pulpit would somehow learn to keep 
itself in the background while putting God’s Word 
in the foreground! 

Mount Nebo 

Mount Nebo is the highest peak of Mount 
Pisgah, eight miles east of the mouth of the 
Jordan. From its summit the hill countries of 
Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh could be 
seen. Later, somewhere in the vicinity, 
possibly on the plain or in the valleys below, 
the angels came down and took Elijah away 
to join Moses in glory (2 Kings 2:11). 


After Moses had finished “writing the book,” he 
composed a song for the people to sing. He had 
celebrated their deliverance from Egypt with a 
song (Exodus 15), and he had written another one, 
which is known to us as the 90th Psalm. Popular 
songs are among the best means of writing ideas on 
people’s hearts — for good or for evil! Deborah 
and David poured out their souls to God in song 
(Judges 5; 2 Samuel 22). The church, from its 
inception until now, has used this same means to 
perpetuate and spread the truths for which it 


This chapter records the blessing Moses bestowed 
on each of the tribes, with predictions about each. 
This is similar to Jacob’s blessing his sons shortly 
before his death (Genesis 49). 

The magnificent statue of Moses by Michelangelo, in St. 
Peter’s in Vincoli in Rome. In medieval and Renaissance art, 
Moses was often represented with horns on his head, due to a 
mistake in the Vulgate (Latin) translation of Exodus 34:29 
(horns instead of was radiant). 


At age 120, his eye not weak nor his strength gone 
(v. 7), the old man climbed Mount Pisgah and, as 
he viewed the Promised Land, into which he 
longed to go, God gently lifted him into the better 
land. In a moment his soul had passed within the 
veil, and he was at home with God. God buried his 
body, no one knows where. His remains were 
removed beyond the reach of idolatry. 

Here ends the first part of the Old Testament. 
These five books, which occupy one-fourth of the 
Old Testament and are almost as large as the entire 
New Testament, were all written by one man, 
Moses. What a man Moses must have been! How 
intimate with God! What a work he did! What a 
benefactor to mankind! Forty years in the palace of 
Pharaoh; 40 years a refugee in Midian; 40 years 
the leader of Israel in the desert. He delivered a 
nation of some 2 1/2 million people from 
servitude, transplanted them from one country to 
another, and organized for them a system of 
jurisprudence that has had a lasting impact on much 
of the world’s civilization. 

As thy days, so shall thy strength be. 

— Deuteronomy 33:25 KJV 


The conquest of the land of Canaan, under the 
leadership of Joshua, began around 1406 B.c. and 
probably lasted for some 10 to 15 years. These 
events are described in Joshua 1-12. Soon after 
the conquest, or even while it was still under way, 
territory was allotted to each of the Israelite tribes. 
This was the beginning of Israel’s settlement of the 
land of Canaan, the land that the Lord had 
promised to Abraham (and his descendants) some 
500 years earlier (Genesis 12:1-3, etc.). The Lord 
was bringing them into the “mountain of your 
inheritance — the place . . . made for your dwelling, 
the sanctuary . . . your hands established” (Exodus 
15:17). Here the Israelites would have a chance to 
live their lives in obedience to, and worship of, the 
true and living God. It was here that the Levites, 

who were to teach God’s Law to the people, were 
allotted 48 cities scattered throughout the land 
(Joshua 20; 1 Chronicles 6:39-66) so that their 
godly influence could permeate the people of God. 

But the writers of the books of Joshua and 
Judges were well aware that not all of the 
Promised Land was under Israelite control (Joshua 
13:1-6; Judges 3:1-3). As the tribes attempted to 
settle in their allotted territories, they encountered 
the opposition of peoples such as the Canaanites, 
Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines. But what 
was more serious was that in some instances Israel 
began to adopt the pagan religious practices of 
these peoples! 

At times, the worship of Baal and Asherah 
became common among God’s people as they 
failed to respond with gratitude to God’s gracious 
dealings with them. In response to Israel’s sinful 
disobedience, God used the pagan nations to 
oppress His people — as instruments of His 
judgment. Israel would eventually respond in 
repentance, and then God sent them a deliverer, a 
“Judge” (there are 12 of them mentioned in 

Scripture), to deliver them. After each deliverance, 
Israel typically enjoyed a period of “rest” — 
freedom from oppression — but unfortunately, Israel 
(or portions of it) would relapse into sin and the 
cycle would begin again. 

During the period of the Judges (ca. 1390— 
1050 B.c.), there was no king in Israel. Ideally, 
Israel was to be a “theocracy,” that is, a nation 
whose ruler was the Lord (Joshua 8:23). It appears 
that for much of the period of the Judges the tribes 
gathered for worship at Shiloh, some 20 miles 
north of Jerusalem, for there the tabernacle and the 
ark of the covenant were located. 

In the period just before the Israelites’ conquest 
of Canaan, strong Egyptian kings such as Thutmose 
III and Amenhotep II had been active in Canaan. 
But the 400 cuneiform tablets found at El Amarna 
indicate that the time of the conquest and 
immediately thereafter (ca. 1400-1350 B.c.) was a 
period of more limited Egyptian influence in 
Canaan. Indeed, during the period of the Judges, 
groups of people from the Aegean area, known as 
the “Sea Peoples,” percolated into the regions 

along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, 
including the land of Canaan. Among them were 
the Philistines, who settled in southwest Canaan in 
the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and 
Gath. The military conflicts between the Philistines 
and Israel (under Samson and Samuel) would 
eventually push the Israelites toward kingship. 

During the middle of the period of the Judges, 
Egyptian rulers such as Seti I, Rameses II, and 
others passed through Canaan on their way north, 
to do battle with the kingdoms of Mitanni and the 
Hittites. But since the Israelites did not interfere 
with these troop movements, and since the 
movements were generally in territory controlled 
by Canaanites and others — that is, not by the 
Israelites — no record of any battles between Egypt 
and Israel is found in the book of Judges. 
However, the Egyptian ruler Merneptah does say 
in one of his texts that “Israel is laid waste [and] 
his seed is not” ( Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 
378) as a result of a campaign in his fifth year (ca. 
1231 B.c.). 

Archaeologically, the era of the Judges (1390- 

1050 B.c.) is known as the Late Bronze II (1400- 
1200 b.c.) and Iron I (1200-1000 b.c.) ages. 
Generally, this seems to have been a time when the 
strong Canaanite city-states were declining in size 
and influence, while newcomers — such as the 
Israelites — were gaining a foothold in the hill 
country, establishing small farmsteads and 
settlements there. Throughout, and especially at the 
end of, this period, Israel’s near neighbors 
(especially the Ammonites to the east and the 
Philistines to the southwest) continued to grow 
stronger, so that the physical existence of God’s 
people hung in the balance. It would take 
personalities such as Saul, but especially David, to 
complete the conquest of the land that had begun 
under Joshua 400 years earlier. 


The Conquest and Settlement of Canaan 

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from 
your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so 
that you may be careful to do everything 
written in it. Then you will be prosperous 
and successful. ” 

— Joshua 1:8 

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you 
will serve. . . . But as for me and my 
household, we will serve the Lord. ” 

— Joshua 24:15 

The Man Joshua 

Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 

13:8). He had been a personal assistant of Moses 
throughout the 40 years of wilderness wandering. 
He went with Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 
24: 13). He was one of the 12 spies, and one of the 
two who wanted to go ahead and conquer the land 
in God’s strength (Numbers 13:8, 16). Josephus 
says that Joshua was 85 when he succeeded 
Moses. It is thought that it took about six years to 
subdue the Canaanites, and Joshua spent the rest of 
his life settling and governing the 12 tribes. Joshua 
was in charge of Israel for about 25 years. He died 
at age 110 and was buried in Timnath Serah, in 

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with 
you; I will never leave you nor forsake 
you. ” 

— Joshua 1 :5 

Joshua was a great warrior who disciplined 
his forces and sent out spies — but he also prayed 

and trusted in God. He led his people into the 
Promised Land, and he may have been a prototype 
of his greater Successor, Jesus (the Greek form of 
Joshua), who is leading His own into the Promised 
Land of heaven. 

Josh. 1 THE BOOK 

This is a grand chapter. Israel had a Book. It was 
only a fraction of what we now have in God’s 
Word, but oh how important! God’s solemn 
warning to Joshua, standing at the threshold of a 
gigantic task, was to be very careful to keep close 
to the words of that Book. Joshua listened and 
obeyed, and God honored him with phenomenal 
success. What a lesson for church leaders! 

l l 

Rahab’s House on the Wall 
( 2 : 15 ) 

Archaeologists have found that in Jericho, 

houses were indeed built between the inner 
and outer walls of the city (see 
chapter on Joshua). 


Rahab had heard of the miracles God had done on 
behalf of Israel, and she had become convinced 
that Israel’s God was the true God (2:10-11). And 
when she met the spies she decided, at the risk of 
her life, to cast her lot with Israel and the God of 
Israel. Rahab and her household were spared 
during the Israelite attack on Jericho. A scarlet 
cord tied in the window of her house indicated that 
the household was not to be harmed. The function 
of this red marker was similar to the purpose of the 
blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts in 
Egypt when the firstborn of Egypt died but the 

firstborn of the Israelites were spared (Exodus 
12:13, 22-23). She may not have been as bad as 
the word “prostitute” now implies. She lived 
among people without morals. Some priestesses of 
the Canaanite religion were temple prostitutes. Her 
profession was considered honorable by the 
people among whom she lived, and not 
disgraceful, as it now is among us. 

Rahab married an Israelite named Salmon 
(Matthew 1:5). Caleb had a son named Salmon (1 
Chronicles 2:51). It may have been the same 
Salmon. If so, then she married into a leading 
family of Israel. She became an ancestress of Boaz 
(Ruth 2-4), of David, and of Christ. She is named 
among the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:31). 


When the ark of the Lord, the most sacred of the 
tabernacle furnishings signifying the Lord’s throne, 
stood at the water’s edge, the river “piled up in a 

great heap,” at Adam (3:16), 22 miles to the north. 
Below that, the water drained off and left the 
pebbly river bottom dry enough to walk on. The 
Levites then carried the ark into the passage ahead 
of the people of Israel. God was leading His 
people into the Promised Land! 

At Adam, the Jordan flows through clay hanks 
40 feet high, which are subject to landslides. In 
1927 an earthquake caused these banks to collapse, 
so that no water flowed past them for 21 hours. 
God may have used some such means to make the 
waters “stand” for Joshua. At any rate, it was a 
mighty miracle and terrified the already frightened 
Canaanites (5:1). 

Jesus, 1,400 years later, was baptized in the 
same Jordan that Joshua and the Israelites crossed. 


There were two piles of memorial stones: one 
where the ark stood on the east bank of the river 

(4:9), the other on the west side, at Gilgal, where 
they stayed. The stones were placed there so that 
generations to come would not forget the enormous 
miracle that had happened there. 


At long last the Israelites were in the Promised 
Land, although they still had to capture it. On the 
fourth day after they crossed the Jordan, their first 
act was to keep the Passover (4:19; 5:10). The 
next day the manna ceased (5:12), ending 40 years 
of God’s special provision. They were now to 
receive provisions directly from the Promised 
Land. Then God sent the commander of His 
invisible army to encourage Joshua for the task 
ahead (5:13-15). 

Jericho owes its existence to a perennial spring and an oasis; 
in Deuteronomy 34:3 it is called the “City of Palms.” It bills 
itself today, with some justification, as the “World’s Oldest 
City.” The oldest town on the site dates back to the 8th 
millennium B.C. It had a revetment wall with at least one tower 
with a built-in stairway. 


Jericho was taken by direct intervention of God, to 
inspire the Israelites with confidence at the 
beginning of their conquest of peoples more 
powerful than they. Led by the ark of the Lord, with 
trumpets blowing, they walked around the city 
seven days. Hovering above were the invisible 
hosts of the Lord (5:14), waiting for the appointed 
hour. And on the seventh day, at the blast of the 
trumpets, the walls fell. 

In an amazing prophecy, a curse was 
pronounced on anyone who would attempt to 
rebuild the city (6:26; see on 1 Kings 16:34). 

Jericho was roughly six miles from the Jordan; 
Gilgal, Joshua’s headquarters, was probably about 
halfway between. The wall of Jericho enclosed 
about 10 acres. It was a place where the people 
from the heavily populated surroundings could find 
refuge in case of an attack. 

New Testament Jericho was about a mile south 
of the ruins of Old Testament Jericho. The modern 
village of Jericho is about a mile to the southeast. 


Jericho has been much excavated in the 20th 
century: by Warren, by Sellin and Watzinger, by 
Garstang, by Kenyon, and by an Italian team What 
John Garstang thought were the walls destroyed by 
Joshua turned out to actually be the walls of a city 
that existed about 1000 years before Joshua. 
However, Kathleen Kenyon’s negativism about the 
correlation of the biblical and archaeological data 
is also not warranted. Bryant Wood, in his analysis 
of all of the data, has reasonably suggested the 
following. What the archaeologists call City IV 
was destroyed about 1400 B.c, This date agrees 
well with the internal chronology of the Bible, 
which would place the conquest of Joshua at about 
1406 B.c. City IV was surrounded by an inner and 
an outer city wall. The outer wall was supported 
by a massive sloping stone structure (revetment 
wall). Between the two walls, houses from City IV 
have been found (note the position of Rahab’s 
house on the city wall; Joshua 2:15). 

It seems that City IV was first destroyed by an 

earthquake and then by fire — burnt debris, in some 
places three or more feet thick, has been found at 
various locations on the tell. Among the debris 
were pottery, household utensils, and even 
carbonized grain — indicating that the destruction 
had taken place in the spring of the year, just after 
the harvest (2:6; 3:15; and note that Israel 
celebrated the Passover just before the conquest of 
Jericho, 5:10 and cf. 3:15). It also indicated that 
there had not been a long siege (large quantities of 
grain were found; the biblical texts say the city 
was taken within seven days, 6:15), and that the 
inhabitants did not have time to flee with their 
belongings before the destruction. In addition, 
carbon- 14 (C 14 ) tests on the organic material place 
the destruction at about 1400 B.c, Even Egyptian 
scarabs (seals) found in tombs there do not name 
pharaohs who ruled after 1400 B.c. 

Josh. 7-8 THE FALL OF Al AND 

Right after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan 
and the miraculous fall of Jericho, Israel met with 
a dreadful defeat at Ai — because of one man’s 
disobedience. It was a terrible shock to Israel. It 
was a disciplinary lesson. God was with them, but 
He meant them to understand that He expected 


Ai. Archaeological evidence can be found to 
correlate the conquest of Jericho and Hazor with 
the biblical data of Joshua’s conquests. However, 
the conquest of Ai, described in Joshua 7-8, has 
not yet been illuminated by archaeological finds. 

Biblical Ai is usually associated with et-Tell, 
because the topographical setting of et-Tell is 
close to that of Ai described in Scripture (east of 
Bethel, valleys and hills in the proper locations, 
etc.)- However, extensive archaeological 
excavations at et-Tell have shown that it was not 
inhabited between about 2300 B.c. and 1100 B.c. 
This of course means that it could not have been 
conquered by Joshua around 1400 B.c. — for no one 
was living there then. 

Attempts have been made to identify other tells 
in the area east of Bethel (which is usually 
identified with the village of Beitin) with biblical 
Ai, but to date a definitive identification has not 
yet been made. Recently a two-acre site called 
Khirbet el-Maqatir has been suggested as meeting 
the textual, geographical, and especially the 
archaeological requirements for Ai — it is east of 
Bethel, has a hill and valley to the north, etc., and 
it apparently has the remains of a small fortress 
from about 1400 B.c,, the very time of Joshua’s 
conquest. But certainty about this suggested 
identification is not possible until the 

archaeological profile of the site has been 
completely substantiated. 

Related to the question of the proper 
identification of Ai is the identification of its twin 
city — Bethel. The almost universally accepted 
identification of Bethel with the antiquity site in the 
Arab village of Beitin is based on topographical, 
historical, and limited archaeological evidence, 
but especially on the fact that the biblical name 
Bethel seems to be preserved in the name Beitin. 
However, a small minority of researchers have 
suggested that Bethel should really be identified 
with a large, archaeologically rich site called Ras 
et-Tahuneh, located in the Arab city of el-Birah, 
just east of Ramallah. Both et-Tell and Khirbet el- 
Makatir, the sites proposed for Ai, are east of a 
north- south line drawn through either Beitin or Ras 
et-Tahuneh — thus fulfilling the textual requirements 
of being east of Bethel — but only Khirbet el- 
Makatir has the archaeological remains dating to 
the days of Joshua. 

The Canaanites and 

“Canaan” was one of the ancient names for 
the land of Israel (see Numbers 34:1-12 for 
its specific boundaries), and its inhabitants 
were often called “Canaanites” during the 
second millennium b.c. In a more restricted 
sense the Bible places the Canaanites on the 
coastlands, in the valleys, and in the Jordan 
Valley. “Amorite” is also a term which can be 
used to refer to the ancient inhabitants of 
Israel, but in a more special sense it can refer 
to a group of people who live in the Hill 
Country — on either side of the Rift Valley. 
Sihon, who lived in Heshbon, east of the Dead 
Sea, is called the “king of the Amorites” 
(Numbers 21 :26). 

Since time and again archaeological 
discoveries have demonstrated the trustworthiness 

of the biblical text, it seems best to await further 
discoveries to help answer the puzzling question as 
to the proper identification of biblical Ai. 

Josh. 8:30-35 THE LAW 

Moses had commanded that this be done (see on 
Deuteronomy 27). Shechem, in the center of the 
land, was between Mount Ebal and Mount 
Gerizim, in a valley of surpassing beauty. Here, 
600 years before, Abraham had erected his first 
altar in the land. And here Joshua, in solemn 
ceremony, read the Book of the Law to the people. 

Josh. 9-10 THE BATTLE IN 

Gibeon, about six miles northwest of Jerusalem, 
was one of the land’s greatest cities (10:2). The 
Gibeonites, frightened after the fall of Jericho and 

Ai, made haste to enslave themselves to Israel. 
This enraged the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, 
Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, and the five of them 
marched against Gibeon. Then Joshua, honoring his 
ill-advised commitment to the people of Gibeon, 
came to their rescue. This led to the famous battle 
of Gibeon, Beth Horon, and westward, where the 
sun stood still for a whole day. Exactly what 
happened or how, we do not know. Some people 
claim to have calculated that the calendar lost a 
day around that time. At any rate, in some way or 
other, daylight was miraculously prolonged so that 
Joshua’s victory might be complete. 

and Debir. Lachish and Debir are named among 
cities whose inhabitants were defeated by Joshua 

Lachish. Archaeological excavations at Tell 
ed-Duweir have suggested that at the time of the 
conquest, Lachish was an important but unfortified 
Canaanite city. Its lack of a defensive wall may 
have led to its speedy conquest. The Bible does 

not actually describe its conquest and destruction 
in the same terms as it does that of Jericho, Ai, and 

Debir (Kiriath Sepher). The older 
identification of Debir with Tell Beit Mirsim is no 
longer accepted, for according to Joshua 15:49, 
Debir is to be located in the Hill Country of Judah, 
not in the lowlands. Consequently, Debir is now 
identified with Khirbet Rabud (8 1/2 miles south- 
southwest of Hebron — in the Hill Country of 
Judah), which has produced evidence of being 
inhabited and conquered at the time of Israel’s 
entrance into Canaan (ca. 1400 B.c,). 


In the battle of Beth Horon, where the sun stood 
still, Joshua had broken the power of the kings of 
the South. Now his victory over the kings of the 
North, at Merom, gave him control of the whole 
land. Joshua’s strategy was to separate the north 

from the south of Canaan by capturing the center 
first, after which he could more easily subdue both 

The Israelites fought hard, yet it was God who 
gave them the land by means of three stupendous 
miracles: the crossing of the Jordan, the fall of 
Jericho, and the standing still of the sun. 


Joshua “burned up Hazor itself’ (11:11). 
Archaeological excavations have found the ashes 
of this fire, with pottery evidence that it had 
occurred about 1400 B.c, 

Also: an Amarna Tablet, written to Pharaoh, 
1380 B.c., by the Egyptian envoy in north Palestine, 
says, “Let my lord the king recall what Hazor and 
its king have already had to endure.” The only 
ruler in Canaan who is called a “king” in the 
nearly 400 Amarna Tablets, is the ruler of Hazor. 
Note also that in the Bible Hazor was called “the 
head of all these kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10). 

This view from the mound of what once was Hazor, with Israeli 
soldiers approaching, could be the same perspective from 
which the king of Hazor watched Joshua and the Israelites 

Tribal Territories 

Thus, Joshua’s conquest of Palestine is attested 
by great layers of ashes, bearing marks of Joshua’s 
time, in Jericho, Debir, and Hazor, exactly 
confirming biblical statements. 


Thirty-one kings are named. Generally speaking, 
the whole land was conquered (10:40; 11:23; 
21:43). However, small groups of Canaanites 
remained (13:2-7; 15:63; 23:4; Judges 1:2, 21, 27, 
29, 30, 31, 33, 35) who, after Joshua’s death, made 
trouble for Israel. Also, the land of the Philistines, 
Sidon, and the Lebanon region were still 

Josh. 13-22 THE DIVISION OF 

The map: Tribal Territories shows the approximate 
location of the land that was assigned to each of 
the 12 tribes of Israel. There were six cities of 
refuge (chap. 20; see on Deuteronomy 19), and 48 
cities for the Levites, including 13 for the priests 
(21:19, 14). The altar by the Jordan (chap. 22) was 
intended as a token of national unity for a nation 
divided by a great river. 

Josh. 23-24 JOSHUA’S 

Joshua had received from Moses the written Law 
of God (1:8). He now added his own book to it 
(24:26). Joshua made good use of written 
documents, or “books,” as Moses had done (see on 
Deuteronomy 31). He had the land surveyed with 
“a book” (18:9). He read to the people the “book” 
of Moses (8:34). And at Mount Ebal he “wrote on 
stones” a copy of the Law (8:32). 

The main burden of Joshua’s final speech was 
against idolatry. Canaanite idolatry was such an 
aesthetic combination of religion and free 
indulgence of carnal desires that only persons of 
exceptional strength of character could withstand 
its allurements. 

At Shechem, Joshua and the Israelites renewed their 
commitment to God’s covenant with Israel. Joshua set up a 
great stone as a witness. This stone, at the site of ancient 
Shechem, is like the one Joshua erected, although it is most 
likely not the original one. 


i i 

300 Years of Oppression and Deliverance 

"But you have forsaken me and served other 
gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and 
cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let 
them save you when you are in trouble!” 

But the Israelites said to the Lord, 
“We have sinned. Do with us whatever you 
think best, but please rescue us now. ” Then 
they got rid of the foreign gods among them 
and set~ved the Lord. And he could bear 
Israel s misery no longer. 

— Judges 10 : 13-16 

The Period of the Judges 

The Hebrew nation, after the death of Joshua, had 

no strong central government. They were a 
confederacy of 12 independent tribes, with no 
unifying element except their God. The form of 
government in the days of the Judges is spoken of 
as a “theocracy,” that is, God Himself was 
supposed to be the direct ruler of the nation. But 
the people did not take their God very seriously — 
they were continually falling into idolatry. Being 
more or less in a state of anarchy, harassed at times 
by civil war among themselves, and surrounded by 
enemies who made attempt after attempt to 
exterminate them, the Hebrew nation was very 
slow in its national development. The Israelites 
did not become a great nation until they were 
organized into a kingdom in the days of Samuel and 

The exact duration of the period of the Judges 
is uncertain. When we add all the years of the 
oppressions, of the individual Judges, and of the 
periods of rest, they add up to 410 years (see chart 
below). But some of these figures may overlap. 
Jephthah, who lived near the end of the period, 
spoke of it as 300 years (11:26). ft is thought to 

have been, in round numbers, about 300 years, 
roughly from about 1400 until 1100 B.c, The entire 
period from the Exodus to King Solomon, which 
includes also the 40-year period of travel through 
the wilderness as well as the eras of Eli, Samuel, 
Saul, and David, is given as 480 years in 1 Kings 

There were also oppressions by Sidonians and 
Maonites (10:12). 

Years of 

Oppressor(s) Oppression Judge 

of Rest 



Othniel, of Debir in Judah 






Ehud, of Benjamin 






Deborah, of Ephraim; 
Barak, of Naphtali 





Gideon, of Manasseh 


Abimelech (usurper), of Manasseh 


Tola, of Issachar 


Jair, of Gilead, in E Manasseh 




Jephthah, of Gilead, in E Manasseh 


Ibzan, of Bethlehem, in Judah(?) 


Elon, of Zebulun 


Abdon, of Ephraim 




Samson, of Dan 






Joshua had destroyed the Canaanites in some 

sections of the land and had kept others in 
subjection (Joshua 10:40, 43; 11:23; 13:2-7; 
21:43-45; 23:4; 24:18). After his death, there 
remained considerable numbers of Canaanites 
(Judges 1:28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 35). 

God had commanded Israel to utterly destroy 
or drive out the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:2-4). 
Had Israel fully obeyed this command, they would 
have saved themselves a lot of trouble. 

Palestine. The Bible states that the reason Israel 
could not drive out the Canaanites and Philistines 
is that they had iron, while Israel did not (1:19; 
4:3; Joshua 17:16-18; 1 Samuel 13:19-22). Only 
after Saul and David broke the power of the 
Philistines did iron come into use in Israel (2 
Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 22:3; 29:7). 

“40 Years” and “40 Days” 

Othniel, Deborah and Barak, and Gideon are 

each said to have judged Israel for 40 years; 
Ehud was judge for twice 40 years. Later, Eli 
judged for 40 years. And Saul, David, and 
Solomon each reigned 40 years. “Forty 
years” seems to have been a round number 
denoting a generation or completion. 
Similarly, “40 days” is used as a round number 
to indicate completion or fullness. Note how 
often 40 is used throughout the Bible: 

• During the Flood it rained 40 days 

• Moses fled at age 40, was in Midian for 
40 years, and was on Mount Sinai for 40 

• Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 

• The spies spent 40 days in Canaan 

• Elijah fasted 40 days 

• Nineveh was given 40 days’ respite 
(Jonah 3) 

• Jesus fasted 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11) 
and was on earth for 40 days after the 


Although iron objects begin to appear in 
Palestine at about the time of the arrival of the 
Philistines, it wasn’t until the 11th century that they 
became more common. Broken spears, hoes, etc., 
were not discarded, but were typically melted 
down and the metal recast. 


As the hardy, wilderness-bred generation, who 
under the powerful leadership of Joshua had 
conquered the land, died off, the new generation 
found itself settled in a land of plenty and soon 
lapsed into the easy-going ways of their idolatrous 

The Refrain Running Through the Book 

The refrain of the book is, “Every man did that 
which was right in his own eyes” (KJV), or as the 
NIV puts it, “Everyone did as he saw fit” (17:6; 
21:25). They were again and again falling away 
from God into the worship of idols. When they did 
this, God delivered Israel into the hands of foreign 
oppressors. Then, when Israel in their suffering 
and distress turned back and cried to God, God 
had pity on Israel and raised up Judges, who saved 
Israel from their enemies. As long as the Judge 
lived, the people served God. But soon after the 
Judge died, the people would leave God and go 
back to their old ways. 

Invariably, when they served God, they 
prospered, but when they served idols, they 
suffered. Israel’s troubles were due directly to 
their disobedience. They did not keep themselves 
from worshiping idols. They did not exterminate 
the inhabitants of the land as they had been 
commanded. And thus, from time to time, the 
struggle for mastery was renewed. 


Othniel, of Debir, south of Hebron, saved Israel 
from the Mesopotamians, who invaded from the 

Ehud saved Israel from Moabites, Ammonites, 
and Amalekites. The story of how he used his left- 
handedness to kill Eglon, king of Moab, is told in 
graphic detail. 

The Moabites were descendants of Lot. They 
occupied the tableland east of the Dead Sea. Their 
god, Chemosh, was worshiped by human sacrifice. 
They had repeated wars with Israel. 

Gezer was one of the cities the Israelites failed to take in their 
conquest of Canaan. This is the “high place” of Gezer, where 
idols were worshiped. The city was finally captured in 
Solomon’s time by the pharaoh of Egypt, who set it on fire, 
killed its inhabitants, and gave it as a wedding gift to Solomon, 
who rebuilt Gezer (1 Kings 9:16-17). 

The Ammonites were also descendants of Lot. 
Their territory was next to Moab, beginning about 
30 miles east of the Jordan. Their god, called 
Molech, was worshiped by the burning of little 

Moab and Ammon, the ancestors of these two 
nations, were the product of an incestuous 
relationship (Genesis 19:30-38). 

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau. 
They were a nomadic tribe, centered mainly in the 
northern part of the Sinai peninsula but roaming in 
wide circles, even into Judah and far to the east. 

They were the first to attack Israel after their 
departure from Egypt. Moses authorized their 
extinction (Exodus 17:8-16). They have 
disappeared from history. 

Shamgar, of whom little is told, saved Israel 
from the Philistines. 

The Philistines were descendants of Ham. 
They occupied the Coastal Plain between modern 
Tel Aviv and Gaza, and they again oppressed Israel 
in Samson’s day. 

Judg. 4-5 DEBORAH AND 

Deborah and Barak saved Israel from the 
Canaanites, who had been subdued by Joshua but 
had become powerful again. With their chariots 
made of iron they had a major advantage over 
Israel. Deborah is the only female Judge. Her faith 
and courage put Barak’s to shame. 


Hazor. Again, the king of Hazor led the northern 
Canaanite rulers into battle against the Israelites. 
Jabin seems to have been a “dynastic name” used 
by some of the rulers of Hazor, for not only are 
there at least two Jabins of Hazor in the Bible, but 
the name has also been found on a cuneiform tablet 
discovered at Hazor itself. There is archaeological 
evidence that Hazor was destroyed about 1200 
B.c., which chronologically fits well with the story 
of Deborah and Barak. 

Judg. 6-8 GIDEON 

For seven years, Midianites, Amalekites, and 
Arabians (6:3; 8:24) had swarmed into the land, in 
such numbers that the Israelites sought refuge in 
caves and made hidden pits for their grain (6:2-4, 
11). Gideon, with the direct help of God and an 
army of 300 men armed with torches hidden in 
pitchers, gave them such a terrific beating that they 
came no more. 

This was the second time the Amalekites 

invaded Israel (see under chapter 3). 

The Judges: Deborah/Barak and Gideon 

The Great Sea 
(Mediterranean Sea] 

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The Midianites were nomadic descendants of 
Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1-6). Their 

main center was in Arabia, just east of the Red 
Sea, but they roamed far and wide. Moses had 
lived among them for 40 years and married one of 
them (Exodus 2:15-21). Gradually they were 
absorbed into the Arabians. 

The Arabians were descendants of Ishmael 
(Genesis 16). Arabia was the great peninsula 
(1,500 miles north and south, 800 east and west) 
that is today Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It was an 
elevated tableland, 150 times the size of Palestine, 
that sloped north to the Syrian desert. It was 
sparsely inhabited by wandering tribes. 


Abimelech was the son of a wonderful father, but 
he himself was a brutal man. This is a typical story 
of the eternal struggle of gangsters for power. 


Abimelech’s Destruction of Shechem. With 
money from the temple of Baal (v. 4), he hired men 

to murder his brothers, and “he destroyed the city 
and scattered salt over it” (v. 45). The scattering of 
salt symbolized the utter destruction of the city and 
its infertility in perpetuity (Deuteronomy 29:23; 
Psalm 107:34). 

H. Thiersch identified a mound (Tell Balatah) 
near the modern city of Nablus as ancient 
Shechem. This 15 -acre mound contains more than 
20 strata. Remains of a massive tower, dating to 
the period of the conquest and the Judges was 
discovered. The last stratum when the tower was 
used suffered a significant destruction around 1100 
B.c., about the time of Abimelech. 

i l 

Judg. 10-12 TOLA, JAIR, 

Tola and Jair are both mentioned as Judges. 

Jephthah was of Mizpah, in Gilead, the land 
of the prophet Elijah, in eastern Manasseh. 

The Ammonites, whose power had been 
broken by Ehud, one of the earlier Judges, had 
again become strong and were plundering Israel. 
God gave Jephthah a great victory over the 
Ammonites and delivered Israel. The pitiful thing 
in the story of Jephthah is the sacrifice of his 
daughter, the result of a rash vow. 

Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon are mentioned as 

The Judges: Tola, Jair.Jephthah. Ibzan, 
Elon, Abdon, and Samson 

The Great Sea 
(Mediterranean SeaJ 


, Elon 


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V Jephlhah 




f <? T.mrjn 

> i- • • Ibzan 

Tent . 



i Go/ji sat 


ao «• >-«■» 


In Gaza, Samson walked off with the gates to the city (Judges 
16:3). This was a remarkable feat, since he didn’t bother to 
open the gates but took them “bar and all.” The “poles” 
Samson took out were the hinges — vertical poles that fit into 
stone sockets, like this socket (at center of photo) from 
Ashkelon, another city of the Philistines. 

Judg. 13-16 SAMSON 

Samson, of the tribe of Dan, on the Philistine 
border, was before his birth appointed by God to 

deliver Israel from the Philistines. God endowed 
him with superhuman strength, and, under God, his 
exploits were amazing. But he also knew weakness 
and tragedy. 

Samson is the last of the Judges mentioned in 
the book of Judges. Soon afterward followed the 
organization of the kingdom under Samuel, Saul, 
and David. 

Judg. 17-18 THE MIGRATION 

The Danites had been assigned a territory that 
included the Philistine plain, which they had not 
been able to take, and since they were cramped for 
room, part of the tribe, with a stolen god, migrated 
far to the north and settled near the headwaters of 
the Jordan. 

A relief from the mortuary temple of Rameses III at Medinet 
Habu, across the Nile from Thebes, Luxor, and Karnak. The 
relief shows a number of captives, including one Philistine (far 
right) who can be recognized by his characteristic headdress. 

Judg. 19-21 THE BENJAMITE 

A narrative of savage justice for a crime 

unspeakably horrible, as a result of which the tribe 
of Benjamin was almost wiped out. 

Heroes of Faith 

Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson are included 
among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:32. In 
spite of things in their lives about which we 
wonder, they had faith in God. 

Miracles in the Book of Judges 

God directly and miraculously intervened during 
the time of the Judges, especially in the stories of 
Gideon and Samson. An angel appeared to Gideon, 
God gave a sign by means of dew on an animal 
skin, and Gideon defeated the Midianites with 300 
men. An angel appeared to Samson’s parents; he 
was born of a barren mother, and he had 
superhuman strength. 

All this shows that God, in His mercy, still had 
His eye on His people, even though they had sunk 
to the lowest depths. 


the Philistines. There is extensive evidence for 
the arrival of the Philistines during the period of 
the Judges. Typical pottery forms, temples, and 
other artifacts have been found at their cities of 
Ashdod, Ekron, and Timnah. A 1200 B.c. 
destruction level at Hazor has been found. 
Canaanite temples and deities have been 
discovered at Hazor and elsewhere. These are all 
finds that help illuminate the biblical text. 

Why Is Such a Book in the Bible? 

It is simple history. God had founded a nation for 
the purpose of paving the way for the coming of a 
Redeemer for the human race. God was determined 
to maintain that nation. And in spite of its idolatry 
and its wickedness, God did maintain it. If it hadn’t 
been for such leaders as the Judges (as fallibly 
human as they were), and if God had not 
miraculously intervened in times of crisis, Israel 
would have been exterminated. 

This stele of Pharaoh Merneptah (1224-1214 B.C.) contains 
the first known reference to Israel outside the Bible: “Carried 
off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer; Yanoam is made as 
that which does not exist; Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.” 
There is no record in the Bible of Merneptah’s campaign 
against Israel, but it must have taken place during the period of 
the Judges. The stele is black granite, 7 1/2 feet high. 


The Beginning of the Messianic Family of 

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay 
I will stay. Your people will be my people 
and your God my God. Where you die I will 
die, and there I will be buried. ” 

— Ruth 1:16-17 

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his 
wife . . . and she gave birth to a son. 

And they named him Obed. . . . He was 
the father of Jesse, the father of David. 

— Ruth 4:13, 17 

This lovely story of a lovely woman follows, like 

calm after a storm, the turbulent scenes of Judges. 
It is a delightful and charming picture of domestic 
life in a time of anarchy and trouble. 

A thousand years before, Abraham had been 
called by God to found a nation for the purpose of 
one day bringing a Savior to mankind. In this small 
book of Ruth we have the founding of the family 
within that nation into which the Savior would be 
born. Ruth was the great-grandmother of King 
David. From here on, the Old Testament centers 
mainly around the family of David. And the New 
Testament begins with a genealogy that begins with 
Abraham and ends, via Boaz and Ruth, and via 
David, with Jesus, “who is called Christ,” the 
Messiah (Matthew 1:1—16). 

The central theme of the book of Ruth is 
redemption. The Hebrew word for redemption 
occurs 23 times in the book of Ruth. Ruth may be 
considered a “type” of the Christian church, while 
Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, is a type of Christ 
who is our Redeemer. 


A family from Bethlehem — Elimelech and Naomi 
and their two sons — went to live in Moab because 
there was a famine in Israel. The Moabites were 
descendants of Lot (Genesis 19:37) and thus 
distantly related to the Jews. But they were 
idolaters; their god, Chemosh, was worshiped with 
child sacrifices. The two sons married Moabite 
girls. Ten years later, after the father and both sons 
had died, Ruth, the widow of one of the sons, in a 
burst of devotion of superb beauty (1:16-17), 
returned with Naomi to Bethlehem. 


In strict adherence to Hebrew law, Boaz invites an 
unnamed kinsman-redeemer who has first rights to 
redeem Naomi’s land. The unnamed kinsman- 
redeemer declines his rights to redeem the land 
when Boaz reminds him that if he buys the land, he 
must also inherit the former landowner’s widow, 

Naomi, and her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth. 
Boaz, the next eligible kinsman-redeemer, then 
purchases the land and also acquires Ruth for 
marriage. Boaz declares this redemption in the 
midst of 10 witnesses so that there is no question 
regarding the integrity of his actions. 

Gil Id 

In ancient cities, the gate served the same purpose as the 
forum did later in Roman cities and public squares did in 
European cities. Here people met, the king held audience, and 
business was transacted. It was a more leisurely time: Boaz 
waited until the person he needed to deal with showed up. In 
later times, when cities were fortified, the gate also became a 
key part of the city’s defense. This gate at Megiddo shows 
rooms on both sides where defenders could hide. 

The genealogy in 4:17-22 may actually be the 
main reason why the book of Ruth was written. It 
shows that Ruth and Boaz had a son, Obed, whose 
son was Jesse, whose son was David. 

Boaz was a descendant of Rahab, the prostitute 
from Jericho (Joshua 2:1; Matthew 1:5; see on 
Joshua 2). Thus David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, 

was a Moabitess, and his great-grandfather, Boaz, 
was part Canaanite. The chosen family within the 
Chosen Nation thus has Canaanite and Moabite 
blood in its veins. 

It is fitting that from this bloodline would come 
the Messiah for all nations. Rahab and Ruth 
became part of God’s promises and His plan, not 
by birth but by their faith in, and their practical 
commitment to, God and His people — the same 
way in which people from all nations still can 
share in God’s eternal promises. 

It was in a field near Bethlehem that Ruth 
gleaned. Hundreds of years later, also in a field 
near Bethlehem, angels announced the birth of 
Ruth’s descendant, Jesus, to startled shepherds. 

1 Samuel-2 Chronicles 

The term monarchy refers to the time when God’s 
people were ruled by earthly kings (and in one 
instance a queen, Athaliah). The united monarchy 
designates the time when both the northern and 
southern groupings of tribes were united under one 
king. The term usually refers to the days of David 
and Solomon but sometimes is used to include 
Saul’s kingship, which was just prior to David’s. 
At the death of Solomon (930 b.c.) the kingdom 
split into two parts: the southern (including Judah, 
Benjamin, and Simeon) and the northern (the 
remaining tribes). This period is known as the 
divided monarchy. 

The transition from the period of the Judges 
(during which God raised up and empowered 

specific persons for specific purposes) to that of a 
“theocratic monarchy” (in which a king was to 
reign over Israel as God’s representative) is 
described in 1 Samuel. The identities of the 
inspired authors of the books of Samuel and Kings 
are unknown, and although early, perhaps partial, 
editions of these books no doubt existed, both 
books seem to be dealing with questions that Jews 
may have been asking during the Babylonian exile 
(586-538 B.c.). These exiles had recently 

witnessed and experienced the downfall of the 
Davidic monarchy (586 B.c,); the capture and 
burning of Jerusalem and the temple; the ravaging 
of their families, friends, and neighbors; and their 
own deportation from the land. The totality of these 
recent experiences stood in stark contrast to the 
glorious (eternal!) promises that God had made to 
their ancestors (for example, Genesis 12:1-4; 2 
Samuel 7; Psalm 132). 



Period: Saul 

Date: 1050-1010 B.c, 

Major Biblical Passages: 1 Samuel 9-31; 
1 Chronicles 8 and 10 
Period: David 

Date: 1010-970 b.c. 

Major Biblical Passages: 1 Samuel 16-2 
Samuel-1 Kings 2; 1 Chronicles 11-29 
Period: Solomon 
Date: 970-931 b.c. 

Major Biblical Passages: 1 Kings 1-11; 2 
Chronicles 1-9 
Period: Divided Kingdom 
Date: 931-722b.c, 

Major Biblical Passages: 1 Kings 12-2 
Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 10-28 Israel taken 
into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.c. 
Period: Judah alone 
Date: 722-586 B.C 

Major Biblical Passages: 2 Kings 18-25; 
2 Chronicles 29-36 Judah taken into captivity 
by the Babylonians in 586 B.c. 

First Samuel seems to be answering the exiles’ 
question. How did we get a dynastic kingship in 
the first place? In it, the author describes Samuel’s 
role in anointing Saul and eventually David, 
tracing the latter’s rise to power in contrast to 
Saul’s tragic end. 

Second Samuel seems to deal with the 
question. Who was this David, the first king in his 
dynasty, and what was so special about him? In 
other words, why should we be so concerned 
about the fate of his dynasty? The answer, of 
course, is that God, through His prophets Samuel 
and Nathan, had selected David and his successors 
to be the ones through whom He would rule His 
people (2 Samuel 7) — they would be “theocratic 
monarchs.” Connected to this choice/promise were 
the related promises that God would “dwell” in 
Jerusalem, specifically in the temple, and that from 
there He would rule over, protect, bless, 
communicate with, forgive, and provide for His 


The exiles’ question was, Why did this disaster 
happen to us? The answer given in the books of 
Samuel and Kings is: you, your ancestors, and your 
rulers, in spite of God’s call to repentance and 
reform, have chosen, in general, the path of 
disloyalty to God and of disobedience to the 
stipulations of the “Torah” (= teaching) of the 
Living God. This disloyalty was evident even as 
the kingship was being established, it was evident 
even in the life of the so-called ideal ruler David, 
and it continued to be evident in the lives of 
David’s successors and the people they governed. 
Because of disloyalty and disobedience, the 
covenant curses (see Leviticus 26 and 
Deuteronomy 28) had fallen upon God’s people. 

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles cover much 
the same period of Israel’s history, although they 
trace Israel’s beginnings back to Adam Even 
though the “chronicler” makes use of material from 
Samuel and Kings, the perspective in these books 
is a bit different. Most importantly, the message of 
Chronicles was addressed to people who were 

living in the post-exilic period (that is, some time 
after the first return, under the leadership of 
Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel, had taken place in 
538 B.c.; see The Babylonian Exile and the Return 
from Exile: Ezra-Esther ). Even though many of the 
people receiving this message were living in the 
Promised Land, even in Jerusalem, and were 
worshiping God at the rebuilt temple, they were 
well aware that this was not the glorious 
restoration that previously had been promised by 
their prophets. Indeed, they were living under the 
dominating rule of a foreign power (the Persians), 
there was no reigning Davidic king, the “glory of 
God” had not returned to the rebuilt temple, and 
life in the land was not the sought-for “rest” that 
had been promised. Their question seems to have 
been, Is there any future for us, for God’s people? 


North (Israel) 

Capitals: Shechem, Penuel, Tirzah, Samaria 

Number of kings: 19 
Dynasties: 9 

Rulers assassinated or suicide: 8 

Worship centers: Bethel, Dan, Samaria (plus 


Destruction of the kingdoms: 722 B.c. by the 

Major enemies at various times: Southern 
(Judean) kingdom, Philistia, Arameans 
(Damascus), Edomites, Assyrians 
South (Judah) 

Capitals Jerusalem 

Number of kings: 19 and one queen 

Dynasties: 1 (Davidic) 

Rulers assassinated or suicide: 4 (plus 2 
killed by non-Judeans) 

Worship centers: Jerusalem (plus others) 
Destruction of the kingdoms: 586 b.c. by the 

Major enemies at various times: Northern 
(Israelite) kingdom, Egypt (including 
Ethiopia), Philistia, Ammonites, Arameans 

(Damascus), Edomites, Moabites, Assyrians, 
Egyptians, Babylonians 

The chronicler’s answer is yes. He emphasizes 
that the chief legacy of the Davidic dynasty was 
actually the temple and its service (via the 
Levitical priesthood). In the chronicler’s 
presentation of Israel’s history, emphasis is placed 
on David as the one making preparations for 
building the temple, on Solomon as the temple 
builder, and on God-fearing rulers such as 
Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah who instigated 
and led religious reforms. 

So, in spite of the fact that conditions were not 
yet all that had been promised, the small and 
struggling Judean community had a great history 
and heritage, and they were being encouraged to 
follow in the more positive footsteps of previous 
godly rulers and generations as they awaited God’s 
fuller restoration of the land, the temple, and the 
ideal Davidic ruler — the Anointed One, the 

Thus historical books such as Samuel, Kings, 
and Chronicles should be read, not as mere 

political, economic, military, or ethnic history, but 
as a “re -presentation” of Israel’s history (almost 
like an extended sermon) that addressed, in the 
first instance, the readers/hearers of the exilic and 
post-exilic periods. 

If you read only one chapter in the books of 
Samuel, Kings, or Chronicles, be sure to read 2 
Samuel 9! 

1 Samuel 

Samuel, the Last Judge 
Saul, the First King; David, God’s King 
(approx. 1100-1050 b.c.) 

“As for me, far be it from me that I should 
sin against the Lord by failing to pray for 
you. And I will teach you the way that is 
good and right. ” 

— 1 Samuel 12:23 

“The Lord does not look at the things man 
looks at. Man looks at the outward 
appearance, but the Lord looks at the 
heart. ” 

— 1 Samuel 16:7 
In the Hebrew Old Testament, 1 and 2 Samuel 

are one book called Samuel. The translators of the 
Septuagint divided this writing into two books 
called the “First and Second Books of the 

First Samuel begins with the background and 
birth of Samuel. He began his preparation for 
ministry and leadership as a small boy serving Eli. 
Eventually Samuel’s influence as a prophet, priest, 
and Judge extended throughout the nation. Samuel 
anointed both Saul and David as kings, marking the 
transition from the period of the Judges to the 

Samuel, Kings, and 

The entire history of the kingdom of Israel is 
told in the two books of Samuel and the two 
books of Kings. The books of Chronicles tell 
the same story. 

In broad outline, 

• 1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles 

• 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles (both 1 
Kings and 2 Chronicles begin with 

The main differences are that 

• 1 Chronicles begins with a lengthy 
genealogy — beginning with Adam — but it 
omits the stories of Samuel and Saul 
(except for Saul’s suicide); 

• 2 Chronicles omits entirely the history of 
the northern kingdom. 


The author of the book of Samuel is unknown. 
While Samuel is the subject of the book, it is 
unlikely that he actually wrote this book, since his 
death is recorded in 1 Samuel 25:1. Whoever 
wrote these books used the Book of Jashar as a 

source (2 Samuel 1:18) and may also have had 
access to other sources from this period, such as 
the Annals of King David (1 Chronicles 27:24) 
and the records of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad (1 
Chronicles 29:29). 

The Scene of Samuel’s Ministry 

The Four Towns of Samuel’s Judicial and 
Priestly Circuit 

• Ramah, about five miles north of Jerusalem, 
was his birthplace, judicial residence, and 
place of burial (1:19; 7:17; 25:1). 

• Bethel, about seven miles north of Ramah, 
was Samuel’s northern office. It was one of 
the four highest points in the land (the others 
are Mount Ebal, Hebron, and Mizpah). The 
view over the land from Bethel is 
magnificent. Here, 800 years before, Jacob 
had seen the heavenly ladder (Genesis 28:1 0— 
20 ). 

• Mizpah, 2 1/2 miles northwest of Ramah, 
was an important gathering place for the 
tribes of Israel during the days of Samuel ( 1 
Samuel 7:5-7; 10:17). 

• Gilgal, about 10 miles east of Ramah, near 
Jericho, was the place where the Israelites 
camped after crossing the Jordan under 
Joshua and where Joshua had placed a 
memorial (Joshua 4:19-24). It continued as a 
worship center during the days of Samuel and 

Other Towns 

• Gibeah (Tell-el-Ful), about two miles south 
of Ramah, was Saul’s capital. 

• Gibeon, 2 1/2 miles west of Ramah, was 
where Saul grew up, and the “High Place of 
Gibeon” (1 Samuel 13:3) was located only 
one mile southwest of Gibeon, at Nebi 
Samwil. This was an important worship site 
for the tribes of Israel; later the tabernacle 
was placed here (2 Chronicles 1:5). 

Bethlehem, David’s birthplace and later the 
birthplace of Jesus, was 11 miles south of 

Shiloh, about 15 miles north of Ramah, was 
where the tabernacle stood from the time of 
Joshua to Samuel and where Samuel 
ministered as a child at the tabernacle. 

Kiriath Jearim, where the ark of the covenant 
was kept after its return from the Philistines, 
was about nine miles southwest of Ramah. 
Jerusalem, about five miles south of Ramah, 
was still in the hands of the Jebusites in 
Samuel’s day. It was later captured by David. 

Samuel's Ministry 

1 Sam. 1:1-2:11 BIRTH OF 

Samuel was of the tribe of Levi (1 Chronicles 
6:33-38). His mother, Hannah, was a marvelous 

example of motherhood; her son turned out to be 
one of the noblest and purest characters in history. 

Shiloh (1:3). 

• Joshua set up the tabernacle in Shiloh (Joshua 
18:1). Every year Israel went to Shiloh to 
bring sacrifices (1 Samuel 1:3). 

• David brought the ark of the covenant to 
Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:15) about 1000 B.c. 

• Jeremiah (7:12-15), about 600 b.c,, refers to 
Shiloh as being in ruins. The implication of 
these passages is that Shiloh was an important 
city during the period from Joshua to Samuel, 
and that sometime before 600 B.c. it was 
destroyed, deserted, and ceased to exist. 


Danish, and later Israeli, excavations at Shiloh 
have found that it was a worship center from 1650 
B.c, During the Canaanite occupation it was 
surrounded by a massive wall, which in places is 
preserved to a height of 25 feet. Excavations 

demonstrate that it was a worship center when 
occupied by the Israelites as well. Some have 
speculated that the tabernacle was set up on 
several rock-cut terraces on the north side of the 
tell. The site was destroyed in 1050 B.c., probably 
by the Philistines. 

Ruins of Shiloh. Immediately after the conquest of Canaan 
under Joshua, the tabernacle was set up in Shiloh (Joshua 
18:1). It apparently remained there until the days of Samuel. 
The tabernacle itself may have been replaced by a more 
permanent structure during that time (1 Samuel 3:3, “temple”; 
1 Samuel 3:15, “doors”). 

1 Sam. 2:12-36 CHANGE IN THE 

Hannah’s prophetic prayers in 2:31-35 seem to 
have application to Samuel, who succeeded Eli as 
Judge and also as acting priest (7:9; 9:11-14); but 
they also have reference to a priesthood that shall 
last forever (2:35). 

They were fulfilled when Solomon displaced 
Abiathar of Eli’s family with Zadok of another line 
(1 Kings 2:27; 1 Chronicles 24:3, 6). But their 
ultimate fulfillment is in the eternal priesthood of 
Christ. In chapters 8-10, we are told how Samuel 
initiated a change in the form of government, from 

government by Judges to a kingdom. Under the 
kingdom, the offices of king and priest were kept 

Here in verse 35 an eternal priesthood is 
promised, and in 2 Samuel 7: 16 David is promised 
an eternal throne. The eternal priesthood and the 
eternal throne looked forward to the Messiah, in 
whom they merged — Christ became man’s eternal 
Priest and eternal King. The temporary merging of 
the offices of Judge and priest in the person of 
Samuel, during the period of transition from Judges 
to kingdom, seems to have been a sort of historical 
foreshadowing of the final fusing of the two offices 
in Christ. In addition, Samuel was recognized as a 
prophet (1 Samuel 3:20), which is the third office 
that Christ combined in Himself (see Deuteronomy 
18:15, “a prophet like me”): King (Judge), Priest, 
and Prophet. 


The word “prophet” occurs occasionally 

before the time of Samuel, as in Genesis 20:7 
and Exodus 7:1. But Samuel appears to have 
been the founder of a regular order of 
prophets, with schools first at Ramah (1 
Samuel 19:20) and later at Bethel, Jericho, 
and Gilgal (2 Kings 2:3, 5; 4:38). 

The priesthood had become quite 
degenerate, and when Samuel organized the 
kingdom, he initiated, it seems, these schools 
as a sort of moral check on both priests and 

These prophets functioned for a period of 
some 300 years before the prophets who 
wrote the last 17 books of the Old Testament. 
The early prophets are called “oral prophets,” 
to distinguish them from the writing or literary 
prophets who wrote the books. 

The leading oral prophets with whom we are 
familiar are Samuel, the organizer of the 
kingdom; Nathan, an adviser to David; Ahijah, 
an adviser to Jeroboam; and Elijah and 

Elisha, who led the grand fight against 

For more on the prophets, see the chapter on 
The Prophets: Isaiah-Malachi . 

1 Sam. 3 SAMUEL’S 

Samuel was a prophet (3:20). He served as a 
priest, offering sacrifices (7:9). And he judged 
Israel (7:15-17). His circuit included Bethel, 
Gilgal, and Mizpah, with his main office at Ramah. 
He was the last Judge, the first prophet, and the 
founder of the monarchy. His main mission was the 
organization of the kingdom 

The form of government under the Judges had 
been a failure (see introductory note to the book of 
Judges). So God raised up Samuel to unify the 
nation under a king. (See below on chapters 8-10.) 

1 Sam. 4-7 THE ARK IS 

The ark, after its capture by the Philistines, was 
never taken back to Shiloh, and Shiloh ceased to 
be a place of importance. The ark remained in 
Philistine cities for seven months, during which 
time the Philistines suffered great plagues. So great 
were the plagues that the Philistines pleaded to 
Israel to take back the ark — which they gleefully 
did! It was taken to Beth Shemesh and then to 
Kiriath Jearim, where it remained for 20 years 
(7:2). Later it was taken to Jerusalem by David, 
who built a tent for it (2 Samuel 6: 12; 2 Chronicles 
1:4). It stayed in that tent until Solomon built the 
temple. Nothing is known of the history of the ark 
after the destruction of Jerusalem by the 
Babylonians some 450 years later. 

The tabernacle, after the ark was gone from 
Shiloh, was apparently moved to Nob (21:1; Mark 
2:26) and then to Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29) 
until Solomon put it in the temple (1 Kings 8:4). 

After the return of the ark from the Philistines, 
Samuel, with the aid of God, administered a 
terrific defeat to the Philistines at the place where 
they had captured the ark (4: 1 ; 7: 12). 


Up to this time the form of government had been 
the theocracy (see Judges ). In a predatory world 
that only recognized the law of the jungle, a nation 
needed to be fairly strong in order to survive. So 
God, accommodating Himself to human ways, 
permitted His nation to unify, as other nations did, 
under a king. The first king, Saul, was a failure. 
But the second king, David, was a magnificent 


House in Gibeah. “Saul also went to his home 
in Gibeah” (10:26). William F. Albright (1922-23) 
found in Gibeah, in the stratum of 1050 B.C., the 
ruins of the small fortress Saul had built. 

1 Sam. 11-15 SAUL AS KING 

Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, which had 
almost been annihilated in the days of the Judges, 
and of the city of Gibeah, where the horrible story 
had started (see Judges 19-21). 

Tall, handsome, and humble, Saul began his 
reign with a brilliant victory over the Ammonites. 
Any misgivings about the new kingdom 

Then followed Samuel’s warning, to nation and 
king, not to forget God, a warning confirmed by a 
miraculous thunderstorm (chap. 12). 

Saul’s first mistake (chap. 13). His successes 
rapidly went to his head. Humility gave place to 
pride. He offered sacrifices, which was the 
exclusive function of priests. This was the first 
sign of Saul’s growing sense of self-importance. 

Saul’s second mistake (chap. 14). His silly 
order for the army to abstain from food, and his 
senseless death sentence for Jonathan, showed the 
people what a fool they had for a king. 

Saul’s third mistake (chap. 15). This time 

Saul deliberately disobeyed God. For this he heard 
Samuel’s ominous pronouncement, “Because you 
have rejected God, God has rejected you from 
being king.” 


The anointing could not have been done openly, for 
then Saul would have killed David. Its purpose 
was to give David a chance to train himself for the 
office. God took David under His care (v. 13). 

David was short of stature, of fair complexion 
and handsome, of immense physical strength and 
great personal attractiveness, a man of war, 
prudent in speech, very brave, musical, and 

His fame as a musician brought him to the 
notice of King Saul, who did not at the time know 
that David had been anointed to be his successor. 
David became Saul’s armor-bearer. This brought 
David into close association with the king and his 

counselors, so that unknowingly Saul helped train 
David for his future responsibilities as king. 


It seems that David’s first residence at the court 
was only temporary and that he returned to 
Bethlehem Some years passed, and the boy David 
had so changed in appearance that Saul did not 
recognize him(vv. 55-58). 

Socoh, where Goliath was encamped, was 
some 14 miles west of Bethlehem. Goliath was 
about nine feet tall. His armor weighed about 120 
pounds, and his spearhead alone about 15 pounds. 
David’s offer to take on Goliath with only a staff 
and a sling was an act of unheard-of bravery and 
amazing trust in God. His victory thrilled the 
nation. He became the king’s son-in-law, 
commander of the armies, and the nation’s popular 

1 Sam. 18-20 SAUL’S 

David’s popularity turned Saul against him. Saul 
tried to kill him, but David fled and for years was 
a fugitive in the mountains and in the wilderness. 

Jonathan’s friendship for David (chap. 20). 
Jonathan was heir to the throne. His brilliant 
victory over the Philistines (chap. 14) and his 
nobility of character were good evidence that he 
would have made a worthy king. But he had found 
out that God had ordained David to be king, and 
his graceful self-effacement in giving up his 
succession to the throne and his unselfish devotion 
to David, whom he could have hated as a rival, 
form one of the noblest stories of friendship in 
history. Jonathan initiated a covenant with David, 
symbolized by the giving of robe, tunic, sword, 
bow, and belt. This act reflected Jonathan’s 
recognition that David would take Jonathan’s place 
as Saul’s successor. 

1 Sam. 21-27 DAVID A FUGITIVE 

David escaped to the Philistines, feigning insanity. 
Sensing danger, he fled first to the cave of Adullam 
in west Judah, then to Moab, then back to south 
Judah, where he stayed in Keilah, Ziph, and Maon. 
He had accumulated 600 followers. Saul was in 
hot pursuit, but David always escaped. A number 
of the Psalms were composed by David during this 
period (Psalms 18, 52, 54, 57, 59). 

At En-gedi, Saul was trapped. But David 
refused to come to the throne by murder, no matter 
how justified it might seem, and spared Saul’s life. 
Again, at Ziph, Saul acknowledged being a fool — 
but kept on being one. 

Samuel died, and all Israel came together and 
mourned him He was buried in Ramah (1 Samuel 

At Maon, David met Abigail, a woman whom 
God provided as a pattern of good behavior in an 
unfortunate marriage. She eventually became 
David’s wife. David finally found refuge among 
the Philistines again and stayed there until the 
death of Saul. 

i l 

1 Sam. 28-31 THE DEATH OF 

The Philistines invaded the land and encamped at 
Mount Gilboa. One of the Philistine princes had 
wanted David and his men to go along with them. 
But the other princes did not trust David. So David 
remained behind and with his 600 men guarded the 
south against the Amalekites. 

In the meantime, Saul was thoroughly 
frightened and sought, through a witch at Endor, an 
interview with the spirit of Samuel. The 

straightforward simplicity of the narrative seems to 
imply that the spirit of Samuel did actually appear. 
However, there is difference of opinion as to 
whether the apparition was real or fraudulent. At 
any rate, Saul committed suicide in the battle. He 
had reigned 40 years (Acts 13:21). 

Saul’s Head and Armor. It is stated in 31:10 
that “they put [Saul’s] armor in the temple of the 
Ashtoreths” in Beth Shan, and in 1 Chronicles 
10:10 it is said that they “hung up his head in the 
temple of Dagon.” 

Beth Shan (Beisan) is just east of Mount 
Gilboa, at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan 
valleys. The University Museum of Pennsylvania 
(1921-33) uncovered, in an 11th-century B.c. 
stratum at Beth Shan, the ruins of twin temples, 
which may have been the very buildings in which 
Saul’s armor and head were fastened; at least, it is 
proof that there were such temples in Beth Shan in 
Saul’s day. 

2 Samuel 

The Reign of David 
(approx. 1010-970 b.c.) 

“When your days are over and you rest with 
your fathers, I will raise up your offspring 
to succeed you, who will come from your 
own body, and I will establish his 
kingdom. . . . 

“ Your house and your kingdom will 
endure forever before me; your throne will 
be established forever. ” 

— 2 Samuel 7:12, 16 

The second book of Samuel continues the history 
of God’s establishment of the kingdom of Israel. It 
begins with David becoming king over Judah and 

eventually over all of Israel. It tells of David’s 40- 
year reign, including his wars; his capture of 
Jerusalem and the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem; 
God’s promise of an everlasting kingdom; his sin 
with Bathsheba; and the loss of his sons. The book 
ends with David reflecting on his life in what is 
perhaps his last poetic testimony. 


It is helpful to read 2 Samuel 1-6 and 1 Chronicles 
11-16 together, since this clearly shows the 
difference in focus between, on the one hand, the 
books of Samuel and Kings, and on the other, the 
books of Chronicles. (For a description of these 
differences, see the sidebar below.) 

Both 2 Samuel 1-6 and 1 Chronicles 11-13 
cover the period from the death of Saul up to 
God’s promise to David. But 2 Samuel 1-6 
describes at some length the war between the 
house of Saul and the house of David and the 

intrigues it involved, while 1 Chronicles 11-16 
skips the war with the house of Saul and goes into 
detail about David’s mighty men and warriors. 
Chronicles also pays more attention to the ark of 
the covenant: it describes the return of the ark from 
the Philistines who had captured it (chap. 13), an 
event that is ignored in 2 Samuel, and it devotes 
two chapters (15-16) to the bringing of the ark to 
Jerusalem, which is covered in a single chapter (6) 
in 2 Samuel. 

Samuel, Kings, and 

The entire history of the kingdom of Israel is 
told in the two books of Samuel and the two 
books of Kings. The books of Chronicles tell 
the same story. 

In broad outline, 

1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles 

• 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles (both 1 
Kings and 2 Chronicles begin with 

The main differences are that 

• 1 Chronicles begins with a lengthy 
genealogy — beginning with Adam — but it 
omits the stories of Samuel and Saul 
(except for Saul’s suicide); 

• 2 Chronicles omits entirely the history of 
the northern kingdom. 



Spring and Ancient Water System. The one 

natural water source for the city of Jerusalem is the 
Gihon Spring, situated down in the Kidron Valley. 
The ancient core of Jerusalem developed just to 

the west of this spring, on a defensible hill. It is 
because of this spring that the city of Jerusalem 
was built here. 

The tunnels, shafts, and towers close to this 
spring have been carefully studied by scholars 
since the 19th century. It appears that the pre- 
Israelite population built massive towers to guard 
the water sources, and they also enlarged natural 
tunnels and shafts that led from inside the city to 
the spring. In this way they were able to draw 
water from the spring during times of siege without 
ever having to go outside of the city walls. It is 
probable that Joab led David’s troops through this 
tunnel system and thus captured the city from the 
Jebusites: “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites 
will have to use the water shaft to reach those 
Tame and blind’ who are David’s enemies” (2 
Samuel 5:8; compare also 1 Chronicles 11:4-9). 


excavations of the old ancient core of the City of 
David, Kathleen Kenyon and, after her, Yigal 
Shiloh discovered that Jerusalem had been built on 

a series of ascending terraces. These terraces were 
constructed by building a retaining wall, and fdling 
(Heb. mill o) in behind it. Then houses and other 
structures were built on the fill ( millo ). One of the 
duties of a good king, from the time of David 
onward, was to build up “the area around it [i.e., 
the City of David], from the supporting terraces 
[Heb. millo] inward” (2 Samuel 5:9). 

This water shaft at Gibeon goes down some 33 feet and leads 
to a tunnel 40 feet long. At the end is a water chamber that 
may be the pool of Gibeon referred to in 2 Samuel 2:12. After 
the fall of Jericho, the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into making a 
treaty with them (Joshua 9-10). It was when Joshua defended 
Gibeon from the Amorites that the sun stood still over the city. 


The Old Testament is the story of God’s dealings 
with the Hebrew nation for the purpose of one day 
blessing all nations. 

As the story unfolds, it is explained that the 
way the Hebrew nation would bless all nations is 
through the family of David. It is further explained 
that the family of David would bless the world 
through a great King who would one day be born 
into the family, a King who would live forever and 
establish a kingdom of endless duration. 

Inscription at Dan. Until recently, no mention of 
“David” had been found in any extrabiblical text 
dating to the Old Testament period. Now fragments 
of a carved stone victory stele have been found at 
Dan — one of the northernmost towns in Israel. 
Beautifully inscribed, the stele describes in 
Aramaic the victory of the king of Aram 

(Damascus) over the kings of Israel and Judah. 
Among the lines is a mentioning of “the house of 
David” — a clear reference to the Davidic dynasty, 
some 150 to 200 years after David had died. 


After Saul’s death, David had been made king over 
Judah. Seven years later he was made king over all 
of Israel. He was 30 when he became king. He 
reigned over Judah alone for 7 1/2 years, and over 
all of Israel for 33 years, a total of 40 years (5:3— 
5). He died at age 70. 

Soon after becoming king over all Israel, 
David made Jerusalem his capital. Situated in an 
impregnable position, with valleys on three sides, 
and with the tradition of Melchizedek, the priest of 
God Most High (Genesis 14:18; Salem is thought 
to be the ancient name for Jerusalem — compare 
Psalm 76:2), David decided to make it his nation’s 
capital. He took it, brought in the ark of God, and 
planned the temple (chaps. 5-7), which his son 

Solomon would build. 

David was very successful in his wars. He 
completely subdued the Philistines, Moabites, 
Syrians, Edomites, Ammonites, Amalekites, and 
all neighboring nations. “The Lord gave David 
victory wherever he went” (8:6). 

David took an insignificant nation and in a few 
years built it into a mighty kingdom. In the 
southwest, the Egyptian world empire had 
declined. In the east, in Mesopotamia, the Assyrian 
and Babylonian world empires had not yet arisen. 
And here, on the highway between Egypt and 
Mesopotamia, the kingdom of Israel under David 
became almost overnight, not a world empire, but 
perhaps the single most powerful kingdom on earth 
at the time. 

The Promises 

Thus the promise of an eternal king who was 
to come from David’s family was repeated 
over and over — to David himself, to Solomon, 

and again and again in the Psalms and by the 
prophets Amos, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and 
Zechariah, over a period of some 500 years. 
When the time came, the angel Gabriel was 
sent to Nazareth, to Mary, who was of the 
family of David, and he said: 

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor 
with God. You will be with child and give birth 
to a son, and you are to give him the name 
Jesus. He will be great and will be called the 
Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give 
him the throne of his father David, and he will 
reign over the house of Jacob forever; his 
kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33). 

In this Child the promises to and about David 
found their fulfillment. 

2 Sam. 11-12 DAVID AND 


This was the blackest spot in David’s life: adultery 
and instigation to murder to cover up the adultery. 
His remorse made him a broken man. God forgave 
him but pronounced a fearful sentence: “The sword 
will never depart from your house” (12:10) — and 
it never did. David reaped exactly what he had 
sown, and even more — a long, hard, and bitter 
harvest. His daughter Tamar was raped by her 
brother Amnon, who in turn was murdered by their 
brother Absalom. Absalom led a rebellion against 
his father David and was killed in the struggle. 
David’s wives were violated in public, as he had 
secretly violated the wife of Uriah. Thus David’s 
glorious reign was clouded by unceasing troubles. 
What a lesson for those who think they can sin, and 
sin, and sin, and get away with it! 

And yet — this was the man after God’s own 
heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David’s 
reactions showed him to be just that. Some of the 
Psalms (for example, 32 and 51) were born of this 
bitter experience. 

2 Sam. 13-21 DAVID’S 

Absalom probably knew that Solomon was to be 
David’s successor as king, hence this effort to steal 
the throne from his father David. Judging by the 
space given to the account of Absalom, it must 
have been one of the most troublesome things in 
David’s reign. It involved the defection of some of 
David’s advisers and utterly broke his heart. But 
Absalom was finally killed, and David was 
restored to his throne. (For a note on the gateway 
mentioned in 18:33, see Ruth and Boaz in the 
chapter on Ruth.) 

Then followed Sheba’s rebellion (chap. 20). 
Absalom’s attempted usurpation probably 
weakened David’s hold on the people. So Sheba 
tried his hand at it, but soon was crushed. Then the 
Philistines grew bold again (chap. 21), but again 
David was victorious. 

2 Sam. 22 DAVID’S SONG OF 

Here, as in many psalms, David exhibits his 
unfailing trust in God and his unbounded gratitude 
to God for His constant care. 

TKc Kingdoms of Saul. David, and Solomon 

2 Sam. 23 DAVID’S LAST 

This is David’s last psalm. It shows what David’s 
mind was focused on at the close of his glorious 
but troubled life: the justice of his reign as king, 
his creation of the Psalms, his devotion to God’s 
Word, and God’s covenant with him that promised 
an eternal dynasty. 

2 Sam. 24 THE PEOPLE 

It is difficult to see just why the taking of a national 
census was a sin. God Himself had ordered such a 
census both at the beginning and at the end of the 
40 years of wilderness wanderings (Numbers 1:2; 
26:2). In this case, David’s decision to count the 
people may indicate that he who had so 
consistently, all his life, relied implicitly on God 

was beginning to rely on the greatness of his 
kingdom. The census was Satan’s idea (1 
Chronicles 21:1). Satan may have considered it an 
opportunity to move David away from his trust in 
God to trust in himself. At any rate, God regarded 
the act as a sin to be punished. 

The census showed a population of about a 
million and a half fighting men, exclusive of Levi 
and Benjamin (1 Chronicles 21:5), which would 
mean a total population of probably about 6 to 8 

In punishment, God sent the plague. The Angel 
of the Lord, who brought the plague, was stopped 
by God at a place near Jerusalem, the threshing 
floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David bought the 
threshing floor from Araunah, so that it became the 
royal property of the House of David. David built 
an altar on it (v. 25) and later Solomon built the 
temple there (2 Chronicles 3:1). 


All in all, David was a grand character. He did 

some things that were very wrong, but he was a 
most remarkable man, especially when viewed in 
the light of his time and in comparison with other 
oriental rulers. He was, heart and soul, devoted to 
God and the ways of God. In a world of idolatry 
and in a nation that was continually falling away 
into idolatry, David stood like a rock for God. In 
every circumstance of life he went directly to God, 
in prayer, in thanks, in repentance, or in praise. His 
two great accomplishments were the kingdom and 
the Psalms. 

1 Kings 

The Reign of Solomon 
The Division and Decay of the Kingdom 

Elijah went before the people and said, 
“How long will you waver between two 
opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but 
if Baal is God, follow him. ” 

— 1 Kings 18:21 

Parallel stories should be read in both 1 Kings and 
in 2 Chronicles, since they often include different 
details and even events. 

In the Hebrew Old Testament, 1 and 2 Kings 
are one book. The translators of the Septuagint 
divided it into two books. First Kings opens with 

the Hebrew nation in its glory. Second Kings 
closes with the nation in ruin. Together they cover 
a period of about 400 years, approximately 970- 
586 B.c, Except for a few high spots, the story that 
begins full of promise with the golden age of 
Hebrew history soon turns into a sad story of 
division and decay and ends with the destruction of 
Jerusalem and the deportation of the citizens of 
what was left of David and Solomon’s once mighty 

Samuel, Kings, and 

The entire history of the kingdom of Israel is 
told in the two books of Samuel and the two 
books of Kings. The books of Chronicles tell 
the same story. 

In broad outline, 

1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles 

• 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles (both 1 
Kings and 2 Chronicles begin with 

The main differences are that 

• 1 Chronicles begins with a lengthy 
genealogy — beginning with Adam — but it 
omits the stories of Samuel and Saul 
(except for Saul’s suicide); 

• 2 Chronicles omits entirely the history of 
the northern kingdom. 


The author of the books of Kings is not known. A 
Jewish tradition says that it was Jeremiah. 
Whoever the author was, he makes frequent 
reference to state annals and other historical 
records that existed in his day, such as the Book of 
the Acts of Solomon, the Book of the Chronicles of 

the Kings of Judah, and the Book of the Chronicles 
of the Kings of Israel (1 Kings 11:41; 14:19, 29; 
15:7, 23, 31; 16:5, 14, 27, etc.). It appears that 
there was an abundance of written records to 
which the author had access, guided, of course, by 
the Spirit of God. 

1 Kings 1-2 SOLOMON 

Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba, the 
wife of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:1-12:24). Though not 
in line for the succession, he was chosen by David, 
and approved by God, to be David’s successor 
(1:30; 1 Chronicles 22:9-10). 

Adonijah, David’s fourth son, it seems, was 
heir expectant to the throne (2:15, 22; 2 Samuel 
3:3-4), for the three eldest sons (Amnon, Absalom, 
and probably Chiliab) were dead. So while David 
was on his deathbed, and before Solomon was 
formally anointed king, Adonijah plotted to seize 
the kingdom. But the plot was thwarted by Nathan 

the prophet. Solomon was generous in his 
treatment of Adonijah. But Adonijah persisted in 
his effort to steal the throne, and it was not long 
until he also was executed (1 Kings 1:1-2:25). 

King David was buried in the City of David (the ancient core of 
Jerusalem just south of the temple), as were all kings of Judah 
through Ahaz. The largest opening may be the tomb of David. 
Not much can be seen, since the site was quarried extensively 
during the Roman period. 


This event took place at Gibeon (3:4), where at the 
time the tabernacle and the bronze altar were 
located (1 Chronicles 21:29), about six miles 
northwest of Jerusalem. The ark had been brought 
to Jerusalem by David (3:15; 2 Samuel 6:1-16). 
God told Solomon to ask whatever he wanted. 
Solomon asked for wisdom to govern his people. 
That pleased God, and God richly rewarded him 
(vv. 10-12) — a marvelous picture of true greatness 
and youthful piety! 

“So give your servant a discerning heart 
to govern your people and to distinguish 
between right and wrong. For who is 
able to govern this great people of 

— 1 Kings 3:9 

i i 


Solomon had inherited the throne of the most 
powerful kingdom then in existence. It was an era 
of peace and prosperity. Solomon had vast 
business enterprises and was famous for his 
literary attainments. He wrote 3000 proverbs, 
more than 1000 songs, and scientific works on 
botany and zoology (vv. 32-33). He wrote 
Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (also called the 
Song of Solomon), as well as most of the book of 


Solomon began building the temple in the fourth 
year of his reign. He built it according to specific 

design instructions that God had given to his father, 
David. The temple was finished in roughly seven 

(See on 2 Chronicles 2-7.) 

1 Kings 9-10 THE SPLENDOR 

These two chapters are an expansion of chapter 4. 
Solomon devoted himself to commerce and 
gigantic public works. He made a deal with the 
king of Tyre that allowed him to use his navy on the 
Mediterranean. He had a navy at Ezion Geber, on 
the Gulf of Aqaba, and controlled the trade route 
south through Edom to the coasts of Arabia, India, 
and Africa. He built his empire by peaceful 

The era of David and Solomon was the golden 
age of Hebrew history. David was a warrior; 
Solomon was a builder. David made the kingdom; 
Solomon built the temple. In the world outside 
Israel, this was the age of Homer, the beginning of 

Greek history. Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon were 
weak. Israel was the most powerful kingdom in all 
the Ancient Near East, Jerusalem one of the most 
magnificent cities, and the temple one of the most 
splendid buildings. People came from the ends of 
the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom and see his 
glory. The famous Queen of Sheba exclaimed, “Not 
even half was told me (10:7).” 

Solomon’s annual income and his supply of 
gold were enormous: he made large shields of gold 
and small shields of gold, all the vessels of his 
palace were made of gold, his throne was ivory 

overlaid with gold. Gold was as common in 
Jerusalem as stones (10:10-22; 2 Chronicles 
1:15). Within five years after Solomon’s death, 
Shishak, king of Egypt, came and took all this gold 
away (14:25-26; 2 Chronicles 12:2, 9-11). 

System at Megiddo. Although not mentioned 
frequently in Scripture, this city sat astride one of 
the great trade routes of antiquity. When the 
Egyptian king Thutmose III conquered the city (ca. 
1482 B.c.), he said that the “capture of Megiddo, 
was like the capture of a thousand towns” — so 
great was its importance. At Megiddo, a gate, 
wall, palaces, and storerooms from the time of 
Solomon have been discovered. During the days of 
wicked Ahab, a vertical shaft, 120 feet deep, was 
cut on the west side of the mound, and a 215-foot 
horizontal tunnel was then cut in order to bring 
water from outside the city to inside its walls, in 
order to provide its residents with water during 
times of siege. Throughout history the armies of the 
world have attempted to control this strategic spot, 

and so it has become the symbol for the great final 
battle (Revelation 16:16), the “Battle of 
Armageddon” (Heb. Har [mount] Megiddo). 

Solomon’s Gold. Records show that Shishak 
and his son Osorkon gave over 383 tons of 
precious metal to the Egyptian deities. Perhaps 
some of this was the very same gold Shishak had 
taken from Solomon’s son Rehoboam 

Stables. The author speaks of Solomon’s horses 
and chariots in 10:26, 28. Megiddo, along with 
Gezer and Hazor, is named as one of the cities 
Solomon fortified and where he possibly housed 
his chariots and horses (9:15, 19). 

The remains of the city of Megiddo. (Note the partial tell that 
has not yet been excavated.) Solomon had the walls of the city 
built with forced labor. Later, King Josiah battled Pharaoh Neco 
of Egypt in the plain of Megiddo and was killed (2 Chronicles 
35:22). Here in the plain of Megiddo the great battle of the End, 
the battle of Armageddon (Har Megiddo) will be fought 
(Revelation 16:16). 

The Oriental Institute uncovered structures at 
Megiddo that may be Solomon’s stables (although 
some archaeologists believe that the structures may 
have been used as storerooms; and some would 
actually date them to the time of Ahab rather than 

Solomon). (See also ARCHAEOLOGICAL 
NOTE: Shiloh in 1 Samuel.) 

Navy at Ezion Geber. Solomon built a navy in 
Ezion Geber (9:26). This was for his trade with 
Arabia, India, and the east coast of Africa. Ezion 
Geber was located at the north end of the Gulf of 
Akaba, on the Red Sea, although its exact location 
is not certain. Some have suggested Tell el- 
Kheleifeh (excavated by Nelson Glueck), while 
others suggest identifying it with the island 
anchorage called Jezirat Faraun, nine miles 
southwest of the northern tip of the Red Sea. 


Solomon’s glorious reign was clouded by a grand 
mistake: his marriage to women from other nations, 
who brought their idols with them He had 700 
wives and 300 concubines (11:3), which would 

seem to make this wise man of the ages, in this 
respect at least, just a plain common fool. Many of 
these women were daughters of gentile princes, 
whom he married for the sake of political alliance. 
For them, he who had built God’s temple built 
heathen altars alongside it. Thus idolatry, which 
David had been so zealous to suppress, was 
reestablished in the palace. This brought to a close 
the glorious era ushered in by David and started 
the nation on its road to ruin. The besotted 
apostasy of Solomon’s old age is one of the most 
pitiful spectacles in the Bible. Perhaps the account 
of it was intended by God to be an example of 
what luxury and ceaseless rounds of pleasure will 
do to even the best of men. 

The high place at Dan, where King Jeroboam placed one of 
the golden calves. (The other one was near the southern 
border, close to Jerusalem, in Bethel.) 


The kingdom had lasted 120 years: 40 years under 
Saul (Acts 13:21), 40 years under David (2 
Samuel 5:4), and 40 years under Solomon (1 Kings 
11:42). After Solomon’s death the kingdom was 

divided. Ten tribes formed the northern kingdom 
and took the name “Israel” with them. The two 
remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin, formed the 
southern kingdom, called “Judah.” 

The northern kingdom lasted a little over 200 
years. It was destroyed by Assyria in 722 B.c, The 
10 tribes were deported and disappeared from 
history. The southern kingdom lasted a little over 
300 years. It was destroyed by Babylon shortly 
after about 586 b.c. 

Solomon's Fortresses 

■ V ■ 

The secession of the 10 tribes was of God 
(11:11,31; 12:15), both as punishment for apostasy 
of Solomon and as a lesson to Judah. 

i l 

1 Kings 13-14 JEROBOAM, 
KING OF ISRAEL (931-910 b.c.) 

Jeroboam, encouraged by the prophet Ahijah and 
promised the throne of the Ten Tribes and a lasting 
dynasty if only he would walk in God’s ways, led 
a revolt against Solomon. Solomon tried to kill 
him, so he fled to the court of Shishak, the king of 

After Solomon’s death, Jeroboam returned and 
established the Ten Tribes as an independent 
kingdom. But he disregarded Ahijah’s warning and 
instituted calf worship. God sent Ahijah to 
Jeroboam again, this time to tell him that Israel 
would be rooted up out of the land and scattered in 
the country beyond the Euphrates (14:10, 15). This 
amazing prophecy, which called Josiah by name 
300 years before he was born (13:2), was fulfilled 

(2 Kings 23:15-18). 

0 10 20 30 40 >t»toe 

I — r - 1 1 — t 1 — f — — r 1 

0 20 40 60 

After the division of the kingdom, there was 
long, continued war between Israel and Judah. 

1 Kings 14:21-31 REHOBOAM, 
KING OF JUDAH (931-913 b.c.) 

on 2 Chronicles 10.) 

1 Kings 15:1-8 ABIJAH, KING 
OF JUDAH (931-911 bc) «. 2 

Chronicles 13.) 

I I 

The Religion of the Northern 

Jeroboam, the founder of the northern 
kingdom, in order to keep the two kingdoms 
separate, adopted calf worship as the state 
religion of his newly formed kingdom. The 
worship of God had become identified with 
Judah, Jerusalem, and the family of David. 
The calf came to stand as a symbol of 

Israel’s independence of Judah. Jeroboam 
established calf worship so firmly in the 
northern kingdom that it was not swept away 
until the fall of the kingdom. His two main 
religious centers were Bethel in the south and 
Dan in the northern part of the kingdom. 

There was always a tendency for the 
Israelites to join in the worship of the 
Canaanite deity Baal. His worship was 
actively promoted by Jezebel, but actively 
opposed by the prophets Elijah and Elisha 
and by King Jehu. Baal and other pagan 
deities were also intermittently worshiped by 
the Judeans. 

Every one of the 19 kings of the northern 
kingdom followed the worship of the golden 
calf. Some of them also served Baal. But not 
one ever attempted to bring the people back 
to God. 

The Religion of the Southern 


Judah in principle worshiped God, although 
most of the kings of Judah served idols and 
walked in the evil ways of the kings of Israel. 
Some of Judah’s kings served God, and at 
times there were great reformations in Judah. 
But on the whole, in spite of repeated 
warnings, Judah sank lower and lower in the 
horrible practices of Baal worship and other 
Canaanite religions, until it was too late and 
Judah was overrun by the Babylonians. 


Kings of Israel 

Kings of Judah 











































Jeroboam II 




































— From E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 

rev ed. 

1 Kings 15:9-24 ASA, KING OF 
JUDAH (911-870 B.C.) (See on 2 Chronicles 


1 Kings 15:25-32 NADAB, KING 
OF ISRAEL (910-909 b.c.) 

Nadab was the son of Jeroboam He walked in the 
sins of his father, and he reigned for only two years 
before he was assassinated by Baasha, who killed 
Jeroboam’s entire family. 


The Northern Kingdom, Israel, 933-721 


First 50 years: Harassed by Judah and 


Next 40 years: Quite prosperous under 

Oinri’s dynasty 

Next 40 years: Brought very low under 

Jehu and Jehoahaz 

Next 50 years: Reached its greatest extent 

under Jeroboam II 

Last 30 years: Anarchy, ruin, and captivity 

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, 931-586 


First 80 years: Quite prosperous, growing 

in power 

Next 70 years: Considerable disaster; 

introduction of Baalism 
Next 50 years: Reached its greatest extent 

under Uzziah 

Next 15 years: Began to pay tribute to 

Assyria under Ahaz 

Next 30 years: Regained independence 

under Hezekiah 

Last 100 years: Mostly a vassal of Assyria 

Relations Between the Northern and 
Southern Kingdoms 

First 80 years: Continuous war between 


Second 80 years: Peace between them 
Last 50 years: Intermittent war, to the end 

1 Kings 15:33-16:7 BAASHA, 
KING OF ISRAEL (909-886 b.c.) 

After capturing the throne by violence, Baasha 
reigned 24 years. He walked in the sins of 
Jeroboam He warred with Judah, which made an 
appeal to Assyria to attack him. 

1 Kings 16:8-14 ELAH, KING OF 
ISRAEL (886-885 b.c.) 

Elah, the son of Baasha, reigned two years. Given 
to debauchery, he was assassinated while he was 
drunk, by Zirnri, who killed his entire family. 

1 Kings 16:15-20 ZIMRI, KING 
OF ISRAEL (885 b.c.) 

Zimri reigned all of seven days. He was a military 
officer whose only accomplishment was the 
extermination of the short-lived Baasha dynasty. 
He committed suicide by setting his palace on fire. 

1 Kings 16:21-28 OMRI, KING 
OF ISRAEL (885-874 b.c.) 

Omri was chosen king by acclamation and reigned 
12 years. He was more evil than all the kings of 
Israel before him. Yet he gained such prominence 
that for a long time after his death, Israel was still 
known as the land of Omri. He made Samaria his 
capital (Tirzah, some 10 miles east of Samaria, 
had been the northern capital until then; 14:17; 

The destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. is still 
visible in the remains of the palace of Omri and Ahab in 


• The Moabite Stone (850 B.c.) mentions Omri, 
king of Israel. 

• An inscription of Adad-nirari III (810-782 
B.c.) mentions the land of Israel as “Omri.” 

• The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (858— 
824 B.c.) speaks of tribute from Jehu, 

successor to Omri. 

• In 16:24 it is said that Omri built Samaria. A 
Harvard University expedition found in the 
ruins of Samaria the foundations of Omri’s 
palace, evidence that he established a new 
capital there. 

1 Kings 16:29-22:40 AHAB, 
KING OF ISRAEL (874-853 b.c.) 

Ahab reigned for 22 years. He was the most 
wicked of all the kings of Israel. He married 
Jezebel, a princess from Sidon, who was an 
imperious, unscrupulous, vindictive, determined, 
devilish woman — a demon incarnate. She built a 
temple for Baal in Samaria, maintained 850 
prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth, killed God’s 
prophets, and abolished the worship of the Lord 
(18:13, 19). Her name is later used for 

prophetesses who sought to seduce the church to 
commit spiritual adultery (Revelation 2:20). 


Although the biblical writers were not fond of the 
wicked Ahab, archaeologists have found extensive 
remains (palaces, storerooms, fortresses, etc.) at 
sites such as Dan, Hazor, Megiddo, Jezreel, 
Samaria, and elsewhere. Indeed, he was so 
powerful that in a battle against the powerful 
Assyrian monarch Shalmaneser III at Qarqar (853 
B.c.), he supplied more chariots (2000) than any of 
the other allied forces. 

Elijah, 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2 

Six chapters are given to Ahab’s reign, while most 
of the kings of Israel are covered in only part of 
one chapter. The reason is that the story of Ahab is 
largely the story of Elijah. Elijah was God’s 
answer to Ahab and Jezebel. God sent Elijah to 
eradicate Baalism, a cruel religion. 

Elijah’s rare, sudden, and brief appearances, 
his undaunted courage and fiery zeal, the brilliance 
of his triumphs, the pathos of his despondency, the 

glory of his departure, and the calm beauty of his 
reappearance with Jesus on the Mount of 
Transfiguration (Matthew 17: 3-4; Mark 9:4; Luke 
9:30-33) make him one of the grandest characters 
Israel ever produced. 


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1 Kings 17-18 THE DROUGHT 

God gave Elijah power to shut the heavens for 3 
1/2 years so it did not rain. During this time Elijah 
was fed by ravens in the Kerith Ravine and by the 
widow of Sarepta, whose jar of flour and jug of oil 
did not run out. 

Elijah’s venture of faith on Mount Carmel was 
magnificent. God must have revealed to Elijah, 
some way or other, that he would send the fire and 
rain. But it all made no impression on Jezebel. 


Worship. The Canaanites, and eventually many 
Israelites and Judeans, worshiped the storm god 
Baal — the one who brought fertility to the land. In 
addition, they worshiped the sex goddess Asherah. 
Numerous fertility figurines have been found in 
archaeological excavations in Israel. From some of 
the texts found at Ugarit (a city in Syria) we know 
that Canaanite worship could include ritual 
dancing and the cutting and slashing of one’s body 
— which is exactly what the 450 prophets of Baal 

and the 400 prophets of Asherah did on Mount 
Carmel (1 Kings 18:25-29). 


Utterly discouraged, Elijah fled to Mount Horeb, 
where he asked God to let him die (19:4). Elijah’s 
ministry had been a ministry of miracles, fire, and 
the sword. He had caused a severe drought, had 
been sustained by ravens and by a jar of flour and 
jug of oil that never ran out, had raised the dead, 
had called down fire from heaven, had slain the 
prophets of Baal with the sword, and had brought 
rain to the land. 

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the 
mountain in the presence of the Lord, for 
the Lord is about to pass by. ” Then a 
great and powerful wind tore the 

mountains apart and shattered the rocks 
before the Lord, but the Lord was not in 
the wind. After the wind there was an 
earthquake, but the Lord was not in the 

After the earthquake came a fire, but the 
Lord was not in the fire. And after the 
fire came a gentle whisper. 

— 1 Kings 19:11-12 

And God taught him a wonderful lesson: God 
was not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the 
fire, but in “a still small voice” (vv. 11-12 KJV; 
Niy “a gentle whisper”). It seems as if God was 
telling Elijah that while force and spectacular 
demonstrations of power are sometimes necessary, 
yet God’s real work in the world is not 
accomplished by such methods. 

Many centuries later, Elijah appeared again, on 
the Mount of Transfiguration, talking with Christ 
and Moses about the work that now at last was 

being introduced into the world, namely, the 
transforming of human lives into the image of God 
by the gentle whisper of Christ speaking in the 
hearts of men. 

1 Kings 20-22 AHAB’S DEATH 

Ahab closed his reign with a brutal crime against 
Naboth. He was slain in war with Syria — the end 
of a contemptible character. 

Shalmaneser and Ahab. An inscription of 
Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.c.) mentions Ahab: “I 
destroyed . . . 2000 chariots and 10,000 men of 
Ahab king of Israel.” 

“Ivory House.” “The palace he built and inlaid 
with ivory” (22:39). The Harvard University 
Expedition to Samaria found remains of Ahab’s 
palace. Scattered about on the floors and in the 

courtyards were hundreds of exquisitely carved 
ivory fragments. Many contained Phoenician 
and/or Egyptian motifs. They probably had been 
used as inlays in the palace furniture of the 
Israelite kings — compare the “beds inlaid with 
ivory” in Amos 6:4. 

1 Kings 22:41-50 


JUDAH (872-848 B.C.) (See on 2 Chronicles 

17 .) 

1 Kings 22:51-53 AHAZIAH, 
KING OF ISRAEL (853-852 b.c.) 

(See on 2 Kings 1.) 

2 Kings 

The Divided Kingdom 

The End of Both Kingdoms 

“This is what the Lord, the God of your 
father David, says: I have heard your prayer 
and seen your tears; I will heal you. ” 

— 2 Kings 20:5 

Parallel stories should be read in both 2 Kings and 
in 2 Chronicles, since they often include different 
details and even events. 

The books 1 and 2 Kings were originally one 
book. First Kings tells the story of the kingdom, 
beginning with Solomon, through the division of 
the kingdom after Solomon’s death, and the first 80 

years after the division of the kingdom. Second 
Kings continues the parallel accounts of the two 
kingdoms, Judah and Israel. 

The story of the northern kingdom, Israel, 
continues for another 130 years or so, until the 
Assyrians come, destroy the kingdom, and deport 
the people of Israel, who, as an identifiable group, 
disappear forever into the mists of history. 

Samuel, Kings, and 

The entire history of the kingdom of Israel is 
told in the two books of Samuel and the two 
books of Kings. The books of Chronicles tell 
the same story. 

In broad outline, 

• 1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles 

• 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles (both 1 
Kings and 2 Chronicles begin with 


The main differences are that 

• 1 Chronicles begins with a lengthy 
genealogy — beginning with Adam — but it 
omits the stories of Samuel and Saul 
(except for Saul’s suicide); 

• 2 Chronicles omits entirely the history of 
the northern kingdom. 

The story of the southern kingdom, Judah, 
continues for another 130 years after the fall of 
Israel, until the kingdom of Judah is overrun by the 
Babylonians, Jerusalem is destroyed, and the 
people of Judah are taken to Babylonia in what is 
known as the Babylonian captivity, from which 
some would return about 50 years later to rebuild 
Jerusalem (Ezra, Nehemiah). 

The second book of Kings covers the last 12 
kings of the northern kingdom and the last 16 kings 

of the southern kingdom (see under 1 Kings 12) — a 
period of about 250 years, approximately 850-586 

Elijah and Elisha were prophets sent by God in 
an effort to save the northern kingdom Their 
combined ministry lasted about 75 years in the 
middle period of the northern kingdom, about 875- 
800 B.c,, through the reigns of six kings: Ahab, 
Ahaziah, Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash. 

ISRAEL (853-852 b.c .) 

The account of his reign starts back in 1 Kings 
22:51. He was coregent with his father, Ahab, and 
wicked like him. He reigned for two years. We 
have here another of Elijah’s fire miracles (vv. 9- 



Elijah was a native of Gilead, in the land of 
Jephthah. A child of the wild loneliness of 
mountain ravines, he wore a mantel of sheep skin 
or coarse camel hair, with his own thick, long hair 
hanging down his back. His mission was to drive 
Baalism out of Israel. His ministry may have lasted 
about 25 years, through the reigns of the wicked 
Ahab and Ahaziah. He had some hard and rough 
and very disagreeable work to do. 

He thought he had failed. And though intimate 
with God in a measure that has been given to few 
people, he was utterly human, like us: he asked 
God to take his life. But God did not think he had 
failed. When his work was done, God sent a 
deputation of angelic chariots to take Elijah away 
in triumph to heaven. 

Elijah had recently been on Mount Horeb, 
where Moses had given the Law. Now, conscious 
that the time of his departure had come, he headed 
straight for the land of Moses’ burial, Mount Nebo 
(Deuteronomy 34:1), as if he wanted to be with 

Moses in death. 

Elijah had been a prophet of fire. He had 
called down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel, 
and he had called down fire to destroy the officers 
of Ahaziah. Now he is borne away to heaven in a 
chariot of fire. Only one other, Enoch, was taken to 
God without having to pass through the experience 
of death (Genesis 5:24). Possibly the experience of 
these two men may have been intended by God to 
be a sort of dim foreshadowing of the Rapture of 
the church, in that glad day when angel chariots 
shall sweep in and swing low to gather us up to 
welcome the returning Savior. 

Elisha, 2 Kings 2 to 13 

Elijah, instructed by God, had anointed Elisha to 
be his successor (1 Kings 19: 16-21) and had taken 
him on as his apprentice. As Elijah went away to 
heaven, his mantle fell on Elisha, and Elisha began 
immediately to work miracles, as Elijah had done. 

“Don’t be afraid, ” the prophet answered. 
“Those who are with us are more than 
those who are with them. ” 

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his 
eyes so he may see. ” Then the Lord 
opened the servant’s eyes, and he 
looked and saw the hills full of horses 
and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 

—2 Kings 6:16-17 

The waters of the Jordan were divided for 
Elisha, as just before they had divided for Elijah 
(2:8, 14). The spring at Jericho was healed (2:21). 
Forty-two boys at Bethel were torn by bears 
(2:24). God, not Elisha, sent the bears. Bethel was 
a seat of Baal worship. The boys apparently were 
taunting Elisha’s God. 

God had hinted to Elijah that fire and sword 
were not the methods by which God’s real work 
would be accomplished (1 Kings 19:12). 
Nevertheless, fire and sword continued to be used 

— Baalism could understand no other language. 
Elisha anointed Jehu to exterminate official 
Baalism (1 Kings 19:16-17; 2 Kings 9:1-10). And 
Jehu did so, with a vengeance (chaps. 9-10). 

2 Kings 3-9 JEHORAM 
(852-841 b.c.) 

Jehoram reigned 12 years and was killed by Jehu 
(9:24). During his reign, the king of Moab, who 
had paid tribute to Ahab, rebelled (3:4-6). 


Moabite Stone. Chapter 3 is an account of 
Jehoram’s effort to subdue Moab again. Mesha, 
king of Moab (2 Kings 3:4), made his own record 
of this rebellion. It was found in 1868 at Dibon, in 
Moab, 20 miles east of the Dead Sea, by F. A. 
Klein, a German missionary. It is a black basalt 
stone, 3 feet high, 2 feet wide, 14 inches thick, 

with an inscription of Mesha. It is known as the 
Moabite Stone. While the Berlin Museum was 
negotiating for it, the Clermont-Ganneau of 
Jerusalem tried to make a paper squeeze (a papier- 
mache impression) of it — and was partially 

The next year Arabs, by lighting a fire around it 
and pouring cold water over it, broke it in pieces 
to spite the Ottoman governor. Later the French 
secured the pieces, and by putting them together — 
along with pieces of the paper squeeze — saved the 
inscription. It is now in the Louvre Museum 

This is part of the text written on the Moabite 
Stone (Chemosh is the god of Moab): 

I [am] Mesha, son of Chemosh, king of 
Moab . . . my father had reigned over Moab 
thirty years and I reigned after my father. . . . 

As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled 
Moab many years, for Chemosh was angry at 
his land [Moab]. And his [Omri’s] son 
followed him and he also said, “I will humble 
Moab.” In my time he spoke [thus], but I have 

triumphed over him and over his house, while 
Israel has perished forever. 

He then describes the capture of the cities of 
Medeba, Ataroth, Nebo, and Jahaz. This is what he 
says about the fall of Nebo: 

And Chemosh said to me, “Go, take Nebo 
from Israel!” So I went by night and fought 
against it from the break of dawn until noon, 
taking it and slaying all, seven thousand men, 
boys, women, girls, and maid-servants, for I 
had devoted them to destruction for [the god] 
Ashtar- Chemo sh. 

2 Kings 4-7 ELISHA’S 

Elisha had begun his ministry with miracles, as 
told in chapter 2. Miracle upon miracle follows. A 
widow’s oil supply is increased. The 
Shunammite’s son is raised from the dead. A 
poisonous stew is made edible. Loaves of bread 

are multiplied. Naaman’s leprosy is healed. An ax 
head is made to float. Samaria is delivered by 
Elisha’s invisible chariots. The Syrians are routed 
by horses and chariots of God (7:6). Nearly all that 
is recorded of Elisha is about his miracles. Most 
of Elisha’s miracles were acts of kindness and 

Jesus understood Elisha’s healing of Naaman 
as prefiguring that He Himself would also be sent 
to other nations (Luke 4:25-27). 

2 Kings 8:1-15 ELISHA 

Elisha anointed Hazael to succeed Ben-Hadad as 
king of Syria — a prophet of Israel anointed a 
foreign king to punish the prophet’s own nation. 
God had instructed that this be done (1 Kings 
19:15) as punishment on Israel for their frightful 
sins (10:32-33). 


and Hazael. How Hazael became king of Syria is 
told in 2 Kings 8:7-15. An account is also found in 
an inscription of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria, 
who says: “I defeated Hadadezer [i.e., Ben- 
Hadad] of Damascus. I stretched upon the ground 
20,000 of his strong warriors ... the remnants of 
his troops I pushed into the Orontes river; 
Hadadezer (himself) perished. Hazael, a 
commoner [lit., son of nobody] seized the throne.” 

Elisha’s Ministry 

Elisha began his ministry in the reign of Jehoram 
(3:1, 11), probably about 850 B.c., and continued 
through the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz. He died in 
the reign of Joash (13:14-20), about 800 b.c. 

He was a farm boy, of Abel Meholah in the 
upper Jordan valley (1 Kings 9:16, 19). He 
received his prophetic training from Elijah (1 
Kings 19:21; 2 Kings 3:11). He and Elijah were 
very different. Elijah was like the tempest and 
earthquake; Elisha, like the “still small voice,” the 
“gentle whisper.” Elijah was flint-like; Elisha, 

gentle, gracious, diplomatic. Elijah was a man of 
the wilderness, with a cloak of camel’s hair; 
Elisha lived in cities and dressed like other 
people. Yet Elijah’s mantle fell on Elisha (1 Kings 
19: 19; 2 Kings 2: 13). 

Resurrections in the Bible 

There are seven resurrections in the Bible. 
These seven do not include the resurrection of 
Jesus, the capstone of them all, accomplished 
without human instrumentality, nor the strange 
incident of Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21). 

• Elijah: the widow’s son (1 Kings 17) 

• Elisha: the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4) 

• Jesus: Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) 

• Jesus: the son of the widow from Nain 
(Luke 7) 

• Jesus: Lazarus (John 11) 

• Peter: Dorcas (Acts 9) 

• Paul: Eutychus (Acts 20) 

Elisha’s Miracles 

Elisha’s miracles are recorded in chapters 2 and 
4-7. Among them was one of the Bible’s seven 
recorded resurrections. 


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Elisha’s Seminary Work 

Samuel, it seems from 1 Samuel 19:20, had started 
a school of prophets at Ramah. Elisha had such 
schools at Bethel, Jericho, Gilgal, and other places 
(2 Kings 2:3, 5; 4:38; 6:1). Beside these, he 
appears to have resided at Carmel, Shunem, 
Dothan, and Samaria (2 Kings 2:25; 4:10, 25; 
6:13, 32). He must have been a sort of pastor- 
prophet-teacher, as well as an adviser to the king. 
His advice was always acted on. He did not 
approve of all that the kings did, but in times of 
crisis he came to their rescue. 

Elisha, in the northern kingdom, may have been 
contemporary with the prophet Joel in the southern 
kingdom. He may have been a teacher of Jonah and 
Amos, who were boys at the time. 

Elijah and Elisha, in their personal lives and 
public work, seem to have been a prototype-in- 
action of John the Baptist and Jesus. John is called 
Elijah (Matthew 11:14), and Jesus’ ministry of 
kindness was an extensive expansion of Elisha’s 
ministry of the same nature. They illustrate the fact 
that men of utterly different personality may work 
together for the same ends. 

2 Kings 8:16-24 JORAM, KING 

(See on 2 Chronicles 21.) 

2 Kings 8:25-29 AHAZIAH, KING 

(See on 2 Chronicles 22.) 

2 Kings 9-10 JEHU, KING OF 
ISRAEL (841-814 b.c.) 

Jehu reigned for 28 years. He was an officer of 
Ahab’s bodyguard and was anointed by a prophet 
to be king, to eliminate the house of Ahab, and to 
eradicate Baalism. He proceeded immediately and 
furiously to do the bloody work for which Jehu 
was well fitted. He was intrepid, relentless, 
pitiless. Perhaps no one else could have done it. 
He killed Joram, the king of Israel; Jezebel; 
Ahaziah, the king of Judah (who was Ahab’s son- 
in-law); Ahab’s 70 sons; the brothers of Ahaziah; 

all the friends and partisans of Ahab’s house; all 
the priests of Baal, and all the worshipers of Baal; 
and he destroyed the temple and pillars of Baal. 
Sadly, even though Jehu eradicated Baal worship, 
he made no effort to keep the Law of God but did 
what King Jeroboam had done — practiced calf 
worship (see sidebar The Religion of the Northern 
Kingdom in 1 Kings). 

If we wonder at God’s use of an agent like 
Jehu, we must remember that Baalism was 
unspeakably vile. God sometimes uses people and 
nations who are far from what they ought to be to 
execute His judgments on the wicked. 

This relief from the stele of Shalmaneser III (also known as the 
Black Obelisk) shows Jehu bowing down. The winged disk 
above Jehu represents the god Assur; the star represents the 
goddess Ishtar. 

While Jehu was occupied with his bloody 
revolution in Israel, Hazael, the king of Syria (who 
had been anointed by Elisha; 8:1-15) took away 
Gilead and Bashan, Israel’s territory east of the 
Jordan (10:32-33). Jehu also had his troubles with 
Assyria, whose power was rising with ominous 

Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk. At Calah, near 
Nineveh, Sir Austen Henry Layard found in 1846 a 
block of black stone in the ruins of the palace of 
Shalmaneser, seven feet high, covered with reliefs 
and inscriptions that depicted his exploits. It is 
called the Black Obelisk and is now in the British 
Museum (see photo). 

In the second line from the top is a figure 
kneeling at the feet of the king, and above it this 
inscription: “The tribute of Jehu, son [successor] 
of Omri. I received from him silver, gold, a golden 
saplu- bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, 
golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a 
king. . . .” 


Jezebel “painted her eyes, arranged her hair and 
looked out of a window” (9:30). At archaeological 
excavations throughout Israel, small boxes, vials, 
and containers — made of ivory, stone, pottery, and 
glass — have been found. Some of these were used 

for the preparation of cosmetics. Substances such 
as kohl were used for black; turquoise for green; 
and ochre for red. 


the extensive excavations at Megiddo, several 
palaces, storerooms (or stables), a city gate, city 
wall, and a large underground water system from 
the days of Ahab have been found. 

Megiddo gave its name to the area where the 
armies opposing God’s people will assemble and 
the great and final battle of the ages will be waged: 
Armageddon (liar Megiddo , Mountain of 
Megiddo; Revelation 16:16). Megiddo was 
situated on the south side of the Jezreel Valley, 10 
miles southwest of Nazareth, at the entrance to a 
pass across the Carmel mountain range, on the 
main highway between Asia and Africa. It thus 
held a key position between the Euphrates and the 
Nile and was the meeting place of armies from the 
East and from the West. Thutmose III, who made 
Egypt a world empire, said, “Megiddo is worth a 
thousand cities.” 

It was at Megiddo in World War I that General 
Edmund Henry Allenby (1918) broke the power of 
the Turkish army. It is said that more blood has 
been shed around this hill than any other spot on 


(See on 2 Chronicles 22.) 

2 Kings 12 JEHOASH, KING OF 

JUDAH (See on 2 Chronicles 24.) 

2 Kings 13:1-9 JEHOAHAZ, 
KING OF ISRAEL (814-798 b.c.) 

Jehoahaz reigned for 17 years. Under him Israel 
was brought very low by the Syrians. 

2 Kings 13:10-25 JEHOASH 

782 b.c.) 

Jehoash reigned for 16 years. He warred with 
Syria and retook the cities his father had lost. He 
also warred with Judah and plundered Jerusalem. 

The water tunnel at Megiddo, which dates probably from the 
time of King Ahab (9th century B.C.). The shaft is located 
inside the city walls, ensuring access in case of a siege; it 
goes down some 115 feet and then extends for another 175 


2 Kings 14:1-22 AMAZIAH, 

(See on 2 Chronicles 25.) 

2 Kings 14:23-29 JEROBOAM II, 
KING OF ISRAEL (793-753 b.c.) 

Jeroboam II, who reigned for 41 years, continued 
the wars of his father Joash against Syria and, with 
the help of the prophet Jonah (v. 25), brought the 
northern kingdom to its greatest extent. The 
idolatry and abominable social conditions of 
Jeroboam’s reign were challenged by the ministry 
of the prophets Amos and Hosea. 

Jeroboam’s Servant. In 1904, in the layer of 
ruins belonging to Jeroboam’s time, a beautiful 
jasper seal was found at Megiddo, bearing the 

inscription “Belonging to Shema, Servant [i.e., 
official] of Jeroboam” It was later lost in Istanbul. 

2 Kings 15:1-7 AZARIAH, KING 

(See on 2 Chronicles 26.) 

2 Kings 15:8-12 ZECHARIAH, 
KING OF ISRAEL (753-752 b.c.) 

Zechariah reigned for only six months before he 
was assassinated. 

This piece of pottery (called an ostracon) is probably a receipt 
from the days of Jeroboam II. It reads, “In the 10th year, from 
Azzah [a town] to Gaddiyau [a person], a jar of fine oil.” Pottery 
shards were used to record transactions and as “note paper.” 
In Greece, ostraca were used in voting. If a person was voted 
out of the community, he was “ostracized.” 

2 Kings 15:13-15 SHALLUM, 
KING OF ISRAEL (752 b.c.) 

Shallum, who had assassinated Zechariah, was 
himself assassinated by Menahem after a reign of 

one month. 

2 Kings 15:16-22 MENAHEM, 
KING OF ISRAEL (752-742 b.c.) 

Menahem reigned for 10 years, a cold-blooded and 
brutal king. 


Menahem paid tribute to Pul (= Tiglath-pileser III), 
king of Assyria (w. 19-20). One of Pul’s 
inscriptions says, “I received tribute from ... of 
Menahem of Samaria.” Pul’s inscriptions also 
mention Pekah and Hoshea of Israel (see below). 

2 Kings 15:23-26 PEKAHIAH, 
KING OF ISRAEL (742-740 b.c.) 

Pekiah reigned for two years before he, like 
Zechariah and Shallum, was assassinated. 

2 Kings 15:27-31 PEKAH, KING 
OF ISRAEL (752-732 b.c.) 

Pekah reigned for 20 years. A powerful military 
officer, who may have been coregent with 
Menahem and Pekahiah, Pekah attacked Judah in 
alliance with Syria. Judah appealed to Assyria for 
help. The king of Assyria came and conquered both 
Israel and Syria, taking away the inhabitants of 
north and east Israel. This was the so-called 
Galilee captivity (734 B.c.). Of the northern 
kingdom, only Samaria was left. This story is told 
in more detail in 2 Chronicles and Isaiah 7. 


Deportation. The beginning of the deportation of 
the northern kingdom by Tiglath-pileser III (v. 29) 
is recorded in Tiglath-pileser ’s inscription: “The 
people of the land of Omri [i.e., Israel] I deported 
to Assyria, with their property.” 

2 Kings 15:32-38 JOTHAM, 

KING OF JUDAH (750-732 b.c.) 

(See on 2 Chronicles 27.) 

2 Kings 16 AHAZ, KING OF 
JUDAH (735-716 bc) 

( See on 2 Chronicles 28.) 

2 Kings 17 HOSHEA, THE LAST 
KING OF ISRAEL (730-722 b.c.) 

Hoshea reigned for nine years. He paid tribute to 
the king of Assyria, but made a secret alliance with 
the king of Egypt. Then came the Assyrians and 
administered the final death-blow to the northern 
kingdom. Samaria fell, and its people followed the 
rest of Israel into captivity. The prophets at that 
time were Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. The northern 
kingdom had lasted about 200 years. Every one of 
its 19 kings had walked in the sins of Jeroboam, its 
founder. God had sent prophet after prophet and 
judgment after judgment in an effort to turn the 

nation back from its sins. But in vain. Israel 
insisted on worshiping its idols. There was no 
remedy, and God removed Israel from the land. 

Deportation of Israel by Assyria, 
722 b.c. 


Hoshea killed Pekah and reigned in his stead 
(15:30). Hoshea brought tribute to the king of 
Assyria (17:3). 

An inscription of Tiglath-pileser III says, 
“Israel [lit., Omri-land] ... all its inhabitants [and] 
their possessions I led to Assyria. They overthrew 
their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea as king over 
them. I received from them 10 talents of gold and 
1000 talents of silver as their tribute and brought 
them to Assyria.” 


Captivity of Israel. Second Kings says, “The 
king of Assyria . . . marched against Samaria and 

laid siege to it for three years. . . . [He] captured 
Samaria and deported the Israelites. . . . The king 
of Assyria brought people from Babylon . . . and 
settled them in the towns of Samaria” (17:5-6, 24). 

An inscription of Sargon (see map: Assyrian 
Deportation , and the article The Advancing 
Assyrians in Isaiah) says, “In my first year I 
captured Samaria. I took captive 27,290 people. 
People of other lands, who never paid tribute, I 
settled in Samaria.” 


The Assyrian Empire destroyed the kingdom of 
Israel. In recent years, annals of Assyrian kings 
have been found in which they recorded their 
exploits. In these annals, the names of 10 Hebrew 
kings occur: Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah, 
Hoshea, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh. 
Many statements are found in these records that 
illuminate biblical statements. 




T»'*usa G®?* 

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Assyrian Deportation 

Assynan Empire 

.(ARARAT) 4 Air Ararat 


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The Greet See 
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The capital of Assyria was the great city of 
Nineveh (see the article on Nineveh’s Utter Ruin in 

It was Assyria’s policy to deport conquered 
peoples to other lands, which would destroy their 
sense of nationalism and make them easier to 


The Assyrians were great warriors. Most 
nations then were robber nations, and the 
Assyrians seem to have been about the worst of 
them all. They built their empire on the loot of 
other peoples. They practiced incredible cruelty. 

Assyria was founded before 2000 B.c, by 
colonists from Babylon, and for many centuries 
was subject to, or in conflict with, Babylon. 
Around 1300 B.c. Shalmaneser 1 threw off the yoke 
of Babylon and ruled the whole Euphrates valley. 
Then Assyria declined. Tiglath-pileser 1 (111 5— 
1076) made Assyria again a great kingdom, but 
another period of decline followed — until the 
brilliant epoch of 300 years in which Assyria was 
a world empire, under the following kings, many of 
whom play a role in the Bible (names in bold): 

• Assur-nasir-pal II (884-858 B.c.). He was 
warlike and cruel. Welded Assyria into the 
best fighting machine of the ancient world. 

• Shalmaneser III (858-824). First Assyrian 
king to come in conflict with Israel. Ahab 

fought him. Jehu paid him tribute. 

Period of decline under Shamsi-adad V (824- 
810), Adad-nirari III (810-782), Shalmaneser 
IV (782-773), Assur-dan III (773-754), 
Assur-nirari V (754-745). 

Tiglath-pileser in (745-727). Pul was his 
personal name. He carried northern Israel into 
captivity (734 B.c.) (See under Isaiah 7.) 
Shalmaneser V (727-722). He besieged 
Samaria and died in the siege. 

Sargon H (721-705). He completed the 
destruction of Samaria and the deportation of 
Israel. (Sargon I was a Babylonian king who 
lived 2000 years earlier.) 

Sennacherib (704-681). Most famous of the 
Assyrian kings. He was defeated by an angel 
of the Lord. He burned Babylon. (See under 2 
Chronicles 32.) 

Esarhaddon (681-669). He rebuilt Babylon 
and conquered Egypt. One of the greatest of 
the Assyrian kings. 

Assur-banipal (669-633), (or Osnapper, Ezra 
4:10 KJV). Destroyed Thebes (in Egypt). 

Collected a great library. Powerful, cruel, 

• The end of the Assyrian Empire under Assur- 
etil-ilani, Sin-sar-iskun, and Ashur-uballit 
(633-608). Beset by Scythians, Medes, and 
Babylonians, the brutal empire fell. 

2 Kings 18-25 THE LAST EIGHT 
TO ZEDEKIAH (716-586 b.c.) 

For notes on these kings, see on 2 Chronicles 29- 

These four reliefs show the pride and cruelty of the Assyrians 
as well as their considerable artistic talents. 

Ashurbanipal calmly confronting a wounded lion, emphasizing 
his power and courage (top). 

Assyrian archers carrying the heads of their enemies in 
triumph (bottom). 

Assyrian archers presenting the heads of their enemies 

(perhaps along with other gifts). They took “head count” very 
literally (top). 

A magnificent image of a mortally wounded lion (bottom). 

Deportation of Judah by 
Babylon, 605 b.c. 

1 i 

2 Kings 25 ZEDEKIAH (597-586 
b.c.), Last King of Judah 

The captivity of Judah was accomplished in four 

• In 605 B.c. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, 
defeated Jehoiakim and took temple treasures 
as well as the sons of prominent families, 
including Daniel, to Babylon (2 Chronicles 
36:6-7; Daniel 1:1-3). 

• In 597 B.c. Nebuchadnezzar came again and 

took the rest of the treasures, as well as King 
Jehoiachin and 10,000 of the princes, 
officers, and prominent citizens, to Babylon 
(2 Kings 24:14-16). Among those taken 
captive was the prophet Ezekiel. 

• In 586 B.c. the Babylonians came again. They 
burned Jerusalem, tore down its walls, put out 
the eyes of King Zedekiah, and carried him in 
chains to Babylon, with 832 captives. All that 
was left in the land was a remnant of the 
poorest class of people (2 Kings 25:8-12; 
Jeremiah 52:28-30). 

It took the Babylonians a year and a half 
to subdue Jerusalem They besieged it in the 
tenth month of the ninth year of Zedekiah, and 
the city fell in the fourth month of the eleventh 
year of his reign. A month later the city was 

Thus Nebuchadnezzar was 20 years in the 
process of destroying Jerusalem. He could 
have done it at first, had he wanted to. But he 
only wanted tribute. Daniel, whom he took to 
Babylon at the beginning of the 20 years, soon 

became Nebuchadnezzar’s friend and adviser 
and may have had a restraining influence on 
him In the end, it was Judah’s persistence in 
making an alliance with Egypt that forced 
Nebuchadnezzar to wipe Jerusalem off the 

• In 581 B.c. , five years after the burning of 
Jerusalem, the Babylonians came again and 
took 745 more captives (Jeremiah 52:30), 
even after a considerable group, including 
Jeremiah, had fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 43). 
The fall of Jerusalem was accompanied by 
the ministry of three great prophets, Jeremiah, 
Ezekiel, and Daniel. 

The captivity of Judah by Babylon had been 
predicted 100 years before by Isaiah and Micah 
(Isaiah 39:6; Micah 4:10). Now that it was 
accomplished, Jeremiah predicted that it would 
last 70 years (Jeremiah 25: 11-12). 

This was the end of David’s earthly kingdom. It 
had lasted 400 years. It revived, in a spiritual 

sense, with the arrival of Christ, and will be 
consummated in glory at His return. 


Nebuchadne zz ar. Nebuchadnezzar burned the 
cities of Lachish and Jerusalem (25:9; Jeremiah 
34:7); massive destruction levels have been found 
at both cities. At Lachish a broken piece of pottery 
with writing on it speaks of the cities of Lachish 
and Azekah — just as Jeremiah 34:7 does. In 
Jerusalem, massive destruction by the Babylonians 
has been found by Shiloh’s excavations in the old 
City of David and by Nahum Avigad (a defensive 
tower, ash, and arrowheads) in the Jewish Quarter 
of the Old City. 


• Assyria took Israel away in captivity (734- 
722 B.c.). 

• Babylon took Judah away in captivity (605- 
586 B.c,). 

• Assyria occupied the northern part of the 
Euphrates-Tigris valley. 

• Babylon occupied the southern part of the 
Euphrates-Tigris valley. 

• Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian 

• Babylon was the capital of the Babylonian 

• Nineveh and Babylon were 300 miles apart 
(see map: Babylonian Deportation ). 

The Old Babylonian Empire (2000-1600 B.c.) 

• Around 2000 b.c. Babylon became the 
dominating power of the world. 

• This was the era of the great lawgiver 
Hammurabi (ca. 1800 B.c.; see The Time of 
the Patriarchs: Genesis 12-50 T 

• Then followed 1000 years of intermittent 
struggle, followed by 250 years of Assyrian 
supremacy (884-605 B.c.; see Assyria in the 
chapter on 2 Kings). 

The New Babylonian Empire (625-539 B.c.) 

The New Babylonian, or Neo-Babylonian Empire, 
broke the power of Assyria and, in its westward 
sweep, destroyed Judah and conquered Egypt. Its 
kings were as follows: 

• Nabopolassar (625-605 b.c.) threw off the 

yoke of Assyria in 625 b.c. and established 
the independence of Babylon. With the aid of 
Cyaxares the Mede, he conquered and 
destroyed Nineveh (612 b.c.). 

Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar became 
commander of his father’s armies, and in 605 
B.c. became coregent with his father. 

• Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 b.c.), the greatest 
of all Babylonian kings, was one of the 
mightiest monarchs of all time. He reigned for 
45 years. The Babylonian Empire was largely 
his achievement. He extended the power of 
Babylon over most of the then-known world 
and beautified the city of Babylon almost 
beyond imagination (see sidebar The City of 
Babylon in the chapter on Daniel). 

He was the one who carried the Jews into 
captivity, including Daniel and Ezekiel. He 
took a great liking to Daniel and made him 
one of his chief advisers. And Daniel’s 
influence, no doubt, must have eased the lot of 
Jewish captives. (See further about 
Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, in the sidebars 
The Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar 
in the chapter on Daniel.) 

Under Nebuchadnezzar’s successors the 
Babylonian Empire began to decline: Evil- 
Merodach (562-560 B.c.), Neriglissar (559- 
556 B.c.), Labashi-Marduk (556 B.c.), and 
Nabonidus (556-539 b.c.). 

Nabonidus’s son, Belshazzar, was coregent 
with him during the last few years of his reign 
and thus the second-most powerful person in 
Babylon. This is why he could only offer 
Daniel the third-highest position as a reward 
for interpreting the handwriting on the wall 
(Daniel 5:7; for the story of the handwriting 
on the wall and the fall of Babylon, see 
sidebar Belshazzar in the chapter on Daniel). 

• The city of Babylon, and with it the 
Babylonian Empire, fell to the Medes and 
Persians. Supremacy passed to Persia in 539 
B.c. and would last until Persia was in turn 
conquered by Alexander the Great in 33 1 B.c, 

The Babylonian Empire lasted 70 years. The 
70 years of Judah’s exile coincided exactly with 
the 70 years during which Babylon ruled the 
world. The year in which Cyrus, king of Persia, 
conquered Babylon (539 B.c.) was the same year in 
which he authorized the return of the Jews to their 
own land. 

Babylon, oppressor of God’s Old Testament 
people, appears again in the book of Revelation as 
the embodiment of the forces of evil that oppose 
God (Revelation 17). 

1 Chronicles 

The Reign of David 

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; 
make known among the nations what he has 
done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell oj 
all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy 
name; let the hearts of those who seek the 
Lord rejoice. ” 

— 1 Chronicles 16:8-10 

Parallel stories should be read in both 1 
Chronicles and in 1-2 Samuel, since they often 
include different details and even events. 


The four books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and 
Nehemiah were originally one book or series of 
books. According to Jewish tradition, Ezra was the 

The author thus had access to journals, diaries, 
and public records that have been lost. He also had 
access to previous Old Testament books. Guided 
by God, he transcribed that which suited the 
purpose of his own writing. So, in this part of the 
Old Testament, 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, we 
have a double narrative. 

Samuel, Kings, and 

The entire history of the kingdom of Israel is 
told in the two books of Samuel and the two 
books of Kings. The books of Chronicles tell 
the same story. 

In broad outline, 

• 1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles 

• 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles (both 1 
Kings and 2 Chronicles begin with 

The main differences are that 

• 1 Chronicles begins with a lengthy 
genealogy — beginning with Adam — but it 
omits the stories of Samuel and Saul 
(except for Saul’s suicide); 

• 2 Chronicles omits entirely the history of 
the northern kingdom. 

Significance of the Double Narrative 

Believing, as we do, that the whole Bible is the 
Word of God, designed for universal use, we 
wonder if God had some purpose other than Ezra’s 
immediate need in resettling the land in going over 
this part of the sacred story twice. 

Repetition means importance. At least, it is a 
caution not to neglect this part of the Bible. Even 
though we think of the books of Kings and 
Chronicles as rather dry reading, they contain the 
story of God’s dealings with His people. And in 
reading them we may find some of the finest jewels 
of Scripture. 

1 Chron. 1-9 THE 

The immediate purpose of these genealogies seems 
to be the resettling of the land in accordance with 
the public records. Those who had returned from 
the Babylonian captivity were entitled to the lands 
formerly held by their own families. In the Old 
Testament land had been apportioned to families 
and could not be sold in perpetuity out of the 
family (see on Leviticus 25). 

Sources for the Books of 

Frequent reference is made to other histories, 
annals, and official archives: 

• The annals of King David (1 Chronicles 

• The records of Samuel the seer, the 
records of Nathan the prophet, and the 
records of Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 

• The records of Nathan the prophet, the 
prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the 
visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chronicles 

• The records of Shemaiah the prophet 
and of Iddo the seer (2 Chronicles 12:15) 

• The annotations of the prophet Iddo (2 
Chronicles 13:22) 

• The annals of Jehu the son of Hanani, 
which are recorded in the book of the 

kings of Israel (2 Chronicles 20:34) 

• The annotations on the book of the kings 
(2 Chronicles 24:27) 

• The other events of Uzziah’s reign are 
recorded by Isaiah (2 Chronicles 26:22) 

• The vision of the prophet Isaiah (2 
Chronicles 32:32) 

• The book of the kings of Judah and Israel 
(2 Chronicles 32:32) 

• The records of the seers (2 Chronicles 

In the same way, the priesthood was hereditary. 
A priest was to be succeeded by his son. This was 
the law of the land. 

This is also true of the royal line of David. The 
most important and precious of all promises was 
that the world’s Savior would come from David’s 
family. The central interest of these genealogies is 
their tracing of David’s family line. (See The 
Monarchy: David. Solomon, and the Divided 

Kingdom: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles .') 

“Then you will have success if you are 
careful to observe the decrees and laws 
that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be 
strong and courageous. Do not be afraid 
or discouraged. ” 

— 1 Chronicles 22:13 

Most of the genealogies are incomplete, with 
many breaks in the lists. But the main line is there. 
They were probably compiled from many records 
that had been written on tablets, papyrus, or vellum 
and partly copied from preceding Old Testament 

These nine chapters of genealogies represent 
the generation-to-generation flow of all preceding 
biblical history. They need not be read for 
devotional purposes as often as some other parts of 
Scripture. But these and similar genealogies are 
the skeleton framework of the Old Testament, the 

thing that binds the whole Bible together and gives 
it unity, and that takes it out of the realm of legend 
and into the pages of real history. 

1 Chron. 10-12 DAVID MADE 
KING (1010-970 bc) 

The book of 2 Samuel and the book of 1 
Chronicles, except for the genealogies, are both 
devoted entirely to the reign of David. But 1 
Chronicles pays special attention to the 
organization of the temple services. Written after 
the return from captivity, 1 Chronicles, we might 
say, is a sort of historical sermon, based on 2 
Samuel and designed to encourage the returned 
exiles in the work of restoring temple worship to 
its proper place in their national life. 

In 2 Samuel 2^1 we are told how David was 
made king over Judah after the death of Saul and 
reigned for 7 1/2 years from his capital at Hebron. 
During this time there was war with Saul’s sonlsh- 
bosheth. After Ish-bosheth’s death, David was 

made king over all Israel. 

David’s first act as king over all Israel was to 
capture Jerusalem and make it the capital of the 
nation, as is told more fully in 2 Samuel 5. 
Jerusalem was more centrally located and virtually 
impregnable, on a mountain with valleys on the 
east, west, and south sides. During the 400 years 
from Joshua to David, Israel had been unable to 
take it, so the Jebusites were still there (Joshua 
15:63; 2 Samuel 5:6-10; 1 Chronicles 11:4-5). 
Jerusalem became the City of David in a very 
literal sense: it was his personal property. 


Watercourse. This watercourse (Heb. sinnor; 2 
Samuel 5:8), by which Joab and David’s men 
gained entrance to Jerusalem, was discovered in 
1998 by Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron. It consists 
of a large pool, which collected water from the 
Gihon Spring and was guarded by two massive 
towers. An underground secret passageway led 
from inside the city to a point where water could 
be drawn from the pool — so that the residents of 

the city did not have to go outside the city wall to 
draw water. 


Jerusalem. In the 1980s, a rounded “stepped- 
stone” structure, five stories high, was discovered. 
It apparently supported an old Jebusite citadel 
(maybe called “Zion”) which was captured by 
David. David’s city made use of the massive city 
wall that the Canaanites had built about 1800 B.c. 
The city captured by David was about 15 acres in 
size and housed about 2000 people. 

1 Chron. 13-16 THE ARK 

The ark had been captured by the Philistines (1 
Samuel 4:11). It remained with them for seven 
months (1 Samuel 6:1) before it was sent back by 
the Philistines to Israel in order to stop the plagues 
that had accompanied its capture and possession. It 
then stayed at Kiriath Jearim, some 8 1/2 miles 

northwest of Jerusalem, for 20 years (1 Samuel 
7:2). David, after establishing Jerusalem as the 
national capital, called all Israel together to bring 
the ark to Jerusalem in a grand ceremonial 

But the unfortunate Uzzah incident interrupted 
the procession (13:10). Uzzah’s death for his 
impulsive gesture to save the ark (13:9) seems 
severe to us. However, only Levites were to carry 
the ark (15:2, 13), and Uzzah’s act was in direct 
violation of the Law (Numbers 4:15). His death 
was a warning to be careful. 

After three months at the house of Obed-Edom 
(13:14), who was a Levite (15:17-18, 21, 24), the 
ark was brought into Jerusalem amid great 
rejoicing and placed in a tent that David had made 
for it (15:1). The original tabernacle was at 
Gibeon, six miles northwest of Jerusalem (2 1 :29). 

David’s polygamy (14:3) was against the law 
of God. But it was the custom of ancient kings, one 
of the signs of prestige and royalty, which the 
people seemed to expect of their rulers — a custom 
toward which, in Old Testament times, God 

seemed lenient. However, David reaped a harvest 
of family troubles (see on 2 Samuel 13). 

1 Chron. 17 DAVID’S PLAN TO 

Building the temple was David’s idea. God was 
satisfied with a tent (vv. 4-6), but God gave in, 
although He would not allow David to build the 
temple because he had been a man of war and had 
shed much blood (22:8; 28:3). The task of building 
the temple was assigned to David’s son and 
successor, Solomon(17: 11-14; 28:6). 

1 Chron. 18-20 DAVID’S 

VICTORIES (See on 2 Samuel 8.) 

1 Chron. 21 THE PEOPLE 

NUMBERED (See on 2 Samuel 24.) 

1 Chron. 22 DAVID’S 

Though forbidden to actually build the temple, 
David laid the plans for it and devoted a large part 
of his reign to collecting vast amounts of gold and 
silver and all kinds of building material, estimated 
to have amounted not to millions but to several 
billion dollars in today’s market. It was to be “of 
great magnificence and fame and splendor in the 
sight of all the nations” (22:5). It was to be the 
crowning glory of the kingdom. David’s charge to 
Solomon and the leaders of Israel is expanded in 
chapter 28. 

1 Chron. 23 DUTIES OF THE 

Now that the temple was to be permanently located 
in Jerusalem, there would be no more need to carry 

the tabernacle (v. 26), so the work of the Levites 
was restructured. Some of them were to oversee 
the work of the temple (v. 4); some were to be 
doorkeepers (v. 5); others, musicians (v. 5; 15:16); 
and there was to be a choir of 4000 Levites. Some 
Levites were to be officers and judges over Israel, 
away from the temple, while others handled the 
affairs of the king (23:4; 26:29, 32). Thus it 
certainly looks as if the Levites’ duties involved 
the service of God as well as a significant role in 
the civil government. 

1 Chron. 24-25 THE 

The priests were divided into 24 divisions for 
service in the sanctuary. They were the officials of 
the sanctuary and officials of God (v. 5) and were 
in charge of the sacrifices. Their business in reality 
ceased with the coming of Christ. Ironically, it was 

Levite priests who engineered the crucifixion of 
Christ (Matthew 27:1, 6, 20, 41). 

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be 
strong and courageous, and do the work. 
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the 
Lord God, my God, is with you. He will 
not fail you or forsake you until all the 
work for the service of the temple of the 
Lord is finished. ” 

— 1 Chronicles 28:20 

The Levites were further organized, some to 
serve as gatekeepers in the temple, others to take 
charge of the temple treasury, and some especially 
as musicians, whose business did not cease with 
the coming of Christ but rather took on new 
meaning. David was a great musician. With all his 
soul, he delighted in making the heavens ring with 
songs of praise to God (15:27-28; 16:41-42). The 
musicians included some of the sons of Asaph; the 

headings of Psalm 50 and 73-83 indicate that they 
are psalms of Asaph. 

1 Chron. 27 MILITARY, CIVIL, 

David also arranged for the appointment of army 
commanders, tribal officers, and overseers of the 
royal household. The latter was, in oriental 
fashion, very extensive, with orchards, vineyards, 
herds, workers — everything to ensure that the 
king’s needs were well supplied. 

1 Chron. 28-29 DAVID’S FINAL 

David’s final words and his last prayer concern the 
temple. That is what his heart was on, as his soul 
took its flight to the house not made with hands. 
The man after God’s own heart had served his 
generation nobly. And what a joy it must have been 

when he met Him who later bore the name “Son of 

2 Chronicles 

The Reign of Solomon 
The History of Judah 

“If my people, who are called by my name, 
will humble themselves and pray and seek 
my face and turn from their wicked ways, 
then will I hear from heaven and will forgive 
their sin and will heal their land. ” 

— 2 Chronicles 7:14 

Parallel stories should be read in both 2 
Chronicles and in 1-2 Kings, since they often 
include different details and even events. 

2 Chron. 1-9 THE TEMPLE AND 
REIGN (970-931 b.c.) 

(See also on 1 Kings 1—11.) For 400 years, Israel 
had only had a tent, the tabernacle, as the house of 
God among them, and God, it seems, had been 
satisfied (2 Samuel 7:5-7). Yet, when it appeared 
expedient that they have a temple, God wanted to 
have a say as to the kind of building it should be. 
He gave David plans for it in his own handwriting 
(1 Chronicles 28:19; Exodus 25:9); it would be 
magnificent, and it would be famous throughout the 
world (1 Chronicles 22:5). 

Samuel, Kings, and 

The entire history of the kingdom of Israel is 
told in the two books of Samuel and the two 
books of Kings. The books of Chronicles tell 

the same story, often with different details. 

In broad outline, 

• 1-2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles 

• 1-2 Kings = 2 Chronicles (both 1 
Kings and 2 Chronicles begin with 

The main differences are that 

• 1 Chronicles begins with a lengthy 
genealogy — beginning with Adam — but it 
omits the stories of Samuel and Saul 
(except for Saul’s suicide); 

• 2 Chronicles omits entirely the history of 
the northern kingdom. 

David had wanted to build the temple, but he 
was not allowed to because he was a man of war 
(1 Chronicles 22:8). God helped David in his 
wars, but He did not think that a man of war should 

build His house. Otherwise, conquered nations 
might feel bitter toward Israel’s God, and God’s 
purpose was to win, through His nation, other 
nations to Himself. 

The Temples of God 

The Tabernacle. The house of God in Israel 
for 400 years was only a tent. Most of the 
time it stood at Shiloh. (See on Exodus 25- 

Solomon’s Temple. Its glory was short-lived. 
It was plundered within five years after 
Solomon’s death and was destroyed by 
Babylonians 340 years later, in 586 b.c. 
Zerubbabel’s Temple. Also known as the 
Second Temple. Built after the return from 
captivity, it stood for 500 years. (See under 
Ezra and Nehemiah.) 

Herod’s Temple. This was the temple to 
which Christ came. It was an expansion of 

Zerubbabel’s temple. Built by Herod the 
Great, it was a truly magnificent building of 
marble and gold, surrounded by courts and 
porticos. It was destroyed by the Romans in 
a.d. 70. (See under John 2:13.) 

Christ’s Body. Jesus called His body a 
temple (John 2:19-21). In Him God lived 
among men. Jesus said that earthly temples 
were not necessary to the worship of God 
(John 4:20-24). 

The Church, collectively, is a temple of God, 
God’s dwelling-place in the world (1 
Corinthians 3:16-19; there is no biblical basis 
for calling a church building a “temple”). 

Each Individual Christian is a temple of God 
(1 Corinthians 6:19), of which the grandeur of 
Solomon’s temple may have been a type. 
Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezekiel 40-43) was not an 
actual temple, but a vision of a future, ideal, 
restored temple. 

The Temple in Heaven. The tabernacle was 

a pattern of something in heaven (Hebrews 
9:11, 24). John saw a temple (Revelation 
11:19). Later, God and the Lamb had become 
the temple (Revelation 21 :22). 

(Synagogues do not belong in this list. They 
came into existence during the Babylonian 
captivity and were not temples but houses of 
teaching and worship in any community that 
had a sufficiently large Jewish population. See 
Religious Institutions in the the chapter The 
400 Years Between the Testaments.) 

The temple was built of great stones, cedar 
beams, and boards, overlaid inside with gold (1 
Kings 6:14-22; 7:9-12). The gold and silver and 
other materials used in building the temple (1 
Chronicles 22:14-16; 29:2-9) came to some 370 
tons (340 metric tons), making it, without doubt, 
the most costly and resplendent building on earth at 
the time. The pomp and grandeur of the temple may 
have served a purpose, but its gold became an 

object of greed to other kings. 

2 Chron. 10-12 REHOBOAM, 
KING OF JUDAH (931-913 b.c.) 

(Rehoboam’s story is also told in 1 Kings 12-14.) 
A son of Solomon, he reigned for 17 years. Under 
his reign, the magnificent kingdom of Solomon took 
a plunge from its pinnacle of glory. Ten of the 12 
tribes seceded from his kingdom to form the 
northern kingdom, Israel. And Shishak, the king of 
Egypt, plundered Jerusalem (12:2-9). 

Jerusalem Under David and Solomon 

nom Vet&y 

Rehoboam built fortresses in the Negev to protect his access 
to the Red Sea. These small fortresses, perhaps 150 feet in 
diameter, were often built in sight of each other. But they were 
not enough to keep Shishak of Egypt at bay. 

Invasion of Judah. Shishak’s own record of this 
campaign is inscribed on the south wall of the 
great Temple of Amon at Karnak, in which he is 
depicted as presenting 150 “cities” of Palestine to 
his god Amon. 

A fragment of a monument he set up in 
Megiddo has been found. 

Although Shishak received tribute from 

Rehoboam of Jerusalem, the cities he conquered 
indicate that he was active north of Jerusalem, in 
Israel, and south of Jerusalem, in the Negev. 

2 Chron. 13 ABIJAH (ABIJAM), 
KING OF JUDAH (913-911 b.c.) 

(Told also in 1 Kings 15:1-8.) Abijah reigned only 
three years. He was wicked like his father. But in 
his battle with Jeroboam, king of Israel, he relied 
on the Lord and won, recovering some of the cities 
of the northern kingdom. 

2 Chron. 14-16 ASA, KING OF 
JUDAH (911-870 bc) 

(Told also in 1 Kings 15:9-24.) Asa reigned for 41 
years. His long reign overlapped the reigns of 
seven kings of the northern kingdom, Israel. He 
was a good king, serving the Lord with great zeal. 
A wave of reform swept the land. He broke down 

the foreign altars, high places, pillars or sacred 
stones, sun-images, and the Asherah poles. He 
even removed his mother as queen because she 
worshiped an idol. Under Asa, the kingdom of 
Judah was very prosperous. 

2 Chron. 17-20 JEHOSHAPHAT, 
KING OF JUDAH (872-848 b.c.) 

(Told also in 1 Kings 22:41-50.) He reigned for 
25 years. He followed in the footsteps of his father 
and sought the Lord in all things. He inaugurated a 
system of public instruction by sending priests and 
Levites with the Book of the Law on regular 
circuits, to teach the people. He established courts 
of justice throughout the land. He maintained a vast 
army and became so powerful that he intimidated 
his neighbors, including the Philistines. Even when 
he made an unwise alliance with King Ahab of 
Israel, God still protected him (18:30-32). 

2 Chron. 21 JEHORAM 
(853-841 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 8:16-24.) Jehoram reigned 
eight years. Son of a good father and grandfather, 
he was ruined by his marriage to a wicked woman, 
Athaliah, a daughter of the infamous Jezebel (1 
Kings 18:4, 13; 19:1-2; 21; 2 Kings 9). Under his 
reign Jerusalem was plundered by Arabs and the 
Philistines. He died, unmourned, of a horrible 
intestinal disease, perhaps an extreme form of 
dysentery, and was not even buried with royal 
honor: “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and 
was buried in the City of David, but not in the 
tombs of the kings” (2 1 :20). 

2 Chron. 22:1-9 AHAZIAH 
(841 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 8:25-29.) Ahaziah reigned 
for only one year. He was the son of Athaliah and 
the grandson of Jezebel. He was very wicked and 
was killed by Jehu (2 Kings 9: 14-29). 

2 Chron. 22:10-23:21 
(841-835 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 11.) Athaliah reigned for six 
years. She was a daughter of the infamous Jezebel, 
and devilish like her mother. She had married 
Jehoram, the king of Judah, and ruined him. She 
was the mother of Judah’s next king, Ahaziah, who 
was as evil as she. Thus, she was queen for eight 
years and queen mother for one year, in addition to 
the six years she ruled in her own right — 15 years 
in all. Fanatically devoted to Baalism, she 
massacred her own grandchildren. 

2 Chron. 24 JOASH (JEHOASH), 
KING OF JUDAH (835-796 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 12.) Joash reigned 40 years 
(which probably include Athaliah’s six years). 
Joash was a grandson of Athaliah. While Athaliah 
was murdering the royal house, Joash, the son of 
Ahaziah, was taken away as a baby and hidden in 
the temple for six years. When Joash was seven 
years old, his uncle, Jehoiada the high priest, 
engineered the removal of Athaliah and placed 
Joash on the throne. Jehoiada was the real ruler as 
long as he lived. Under his tutorship, Joash cleared 
the land of Baalism, repaired the temple, which 
Athaliah had broken into and desecrated, and 
restored the worship of God. 

Joash did what was right as long as Jehoiada 
was alive. But after Jehoiada’s death, the 
prominent leaders of Judah, who had known the 
licentious worship of Ashtoreth, convinced him to 
set up the idols again. Joash even ordered 
Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada who had placed him 
on the throne, to be stoned to death. Within a year 

after Zechariah’s death, the Syrians came, 
plundered Jerusalem, and killed the leaders who 
had persuaded Joash. Joash himself was 
assassinated in his bed as revenge for the 
execution of Zechariah. He was buried without 
royal honor. 

2 Chron. 25 AMAZIAH, KING OF 
JUDAH (796-767 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 14:1-22.) Amaziah reigned 
for 29 years. Amaziah did right, yet ended up 
worshiping the gods of the Edomites. He lost a war 
with Israel, and Jerusalem was plundered by 
Israel’s king. He was assassinated. 

2 Chron. 26 UZZIAH (AZARIAH), 
KING OF JUDAH (792-740 bc) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 15:1-7.) Uzziah reigned for 
52 years, part of which may have been as coregent 

with his father, Amaziah. He did what was right 
and set himself to seek God. As long as he sought 
God, God made him to prosper. He had a huge 
army, with remarkably sophisticated equipment 
(vv. 13-15). He was victorious over the 
Philistines, Arabs, and Ammonites. Under Uzziah, 
the kingdom of Judah reached its greatest extent 
since the secession of the Ten Tribes in 931 B.c. 
But he became arrogant, and God afflicted him 
with leprosy. 


Because Uzziah was a leper, he was not buried in 
the tombs of the kings of Judah but “in a field for 
burial that belonged to the kings” (2 Chronicles 
26:23). Evidently his bones were eventually 
reburied, for E. L. Sukenik discovered, in 1931, in 
a Russian monastery on the Mount of Olives, a 
limestone plaque, 14 by 13 inches, from the 
Second Temple Period, written in Hebrew script, 
which says, “Hither were brought the bones of 
Uzziah, king of Judah. Not to be opened!” But the 
actual remains of the king were not discovered. 

2 Chron. 27 JOTHAM, KING OF 
JUDAH (750-732 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 15:32-38.) Jotham reigned 
for 16 years, mostly as coregent with his father. He 
became mighty because he did what was right in 
the eyes of the Lord, as his father Uzziah had done. 
Uzziah’s leprosy undoubtedly served as a warning 
to Jotham 


seal has been found in the excavations at Tell el- 
Kheleifeh inscribed: “Belonging to Jotham” 

2 Chron. 28 AHAZ, KING OF 
JUDAH (735-716 bc) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 16.) Ahaz reigned for 16 
years. Part of this time he seems to have been 
coregent with his father — but he was utterly 

different: a wicked young king who set himself 
against the policies of his forefathers. He 
reintroduced Baal worship and revived Molech 
worship — he even burnt his own sons in the fire. 
But it helped him not. Syria and Israel attacked him 
from the north, the Edomites from the east, and the 
Philistines from the west. Judah paid a very high 
price for Ahaz’s sins. 

2 Chron. 29-32 HEZEKIAH, KING 
OF JUDAH (716-687 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 18-20.) Hezekiah reigned for 
29 years. He inherited a disorganized realm and a 
heavy burden of tribute to Assyria, but he began his 
reign with a great reformation. He destroyed the 
idols Ahaz had set up, reopened and cleansed the 
temple, and restored the worship of God. He 
trusted in God, and God was with him. He 
prospered and gained independence from Assyria. 
The prophet Isaiah was his trusted adviser. 

In Hezekiah’s 14th year, Sennacherib invaded 

Judah. He sent a taunting message to Hezekiah — 
not in Aramaic, the language of commerce and 
diplomacy, but in Hebrew, so that all the people 
could understand it (2 Kings 18:17-37). Hezekiah 
paid him tribute. 

During a visit of envoys from Babylon, 
Hezekiah foolishly showed them the wealth of 
Jerusalem and the temple (2 Kings 20:12-15), 
perhaps in hopes of establishing an alliance with 
the Babylonians against the Assyrians. 

Sennacherib again invaded Judah (701 B.c.). 
Hezekiah strengthened the wall of Jerusalem, built 
the water tunnel, and made great military 
preparations. Then followed the great deliverance 
by the Angel of the Lord (2 Kings 19:35). This 
victory brought Hezekiah great prestige and power. 


Pomegranate. A tiny ivory pomegranate from 
the days of the Judean king Hezekiah (late 8th 
century B.c.) surfaced in the antiquities market. It 
was probably once the head on the top of a scepter 
used by Israelite priests in the First Temple in 

Jerusalem. It is inscribed in ancient Hebrew 
characters and reads: “Holy to the priests, 
belonging to the T[emple of Yah we] h” (the words 
in brackets are restored). 

This portion of Sennacherib’s relief shows his attack on 
Lachish. The defend-ers are throwing burning torches down 
on the siege towers and the ladders used to scale the walls. 
The rest of the relief shows the attackers pouring water on the 
leather covers of the siege towers to keep them from catching 

The six-sided prism of baked clay on which Senncherib details 
his exploits. The prism is only 15 inches tall. 

Wall. Hezekiah repaired and built the walls of 
Jerusalem (32:5; Isaiah 22:10). Professor Nahum 
Avigad found over 200 feet of a wall dating to the 

8th century B.c. (Hezekiah’s century), which was 
23 feet thick and in places was preserved to a 
height of over 10 feet. (See also on Isaiah 22:10.) 

Tunnel and the Siloam Inscription. The 

tunnel by which Hezekiah brought water into the 
city (32:3-4; 2 Kings 20:20) has been found. The 
Gihon Spring was situated at the east foot of Ophel 
Hill (see map: Expansion of Jerusalem Under 
Hezekiah ). just outside the wall. Hezekiah’s 
workmen cut a tunnel through solid rock, under the 
hill, that runs 1,700 feet southwest from the spring 
to the Pool of Siloam inside the wall, thus 
diverting the water of the spring from its natural 
flow into the Brook Kidron. The tunnel is an 
average height of about six feet and an average 
width of 2 1/2 feet. Its drop is seven feet. At its 
southern exit the Siloam Inscription was found. 

The Siloam Inscription was discovered in 
1880 by some schoolboys at the south end of the 
tunnel. This five-line inscription, written in 
Hebrew, was carelessly cut from the rock, sent to 

Istanbul, and now resides in a museum. This 
inscription describes the construction of the tunnel: 
“The tunnel was driven through. And this was 
the way in which it was cut through: While [the 
stonecutters were lifting up their pick], each man 
toward his fellow (i.e., from opposite ends), and 
while there were still three cubits to be cut 
through, [there was heard] the voice of a man 
calling to his fellow. . . . And when the tunnel was 
driven through, the stonecutters hewed the rock, 
each man toward his fellow, axe against axe. And 
the water flowed from the spring toward the 
reservoir for 1,200 cubits, and the height of the 
rock above the heads of the stonecutters was 100 


Sennacherib’s Invasion of Judah. In his 

invasion of Judah (32:1), Sennacherib took 
fortified cities of Judah (2 Kings 18:13), laid siege 
to Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17), but returned without 
taking Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35-36). 
Sennacherib’s own account of this invasion has 

been found on a clay prism he himself had made. 
One copy of it is now in the Oriental Institute 
Museum in Chicago. Sennacherib says in part: 

“As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to 
my yoke. I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, 
walled forts, and to the countless small villages in 
their vicinity, and conquered [them]. ... I drove 
out of them 200,150 people, young and old, male 
and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big 
and small cattle beyond counting and considered 
[them] booty. Hezekiah himself I made prisoner in 
Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a 
cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to 
molest those who were leaving his city’s gate. . . . 
Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased his 

While no Assyrian king would ever record a 
defeat such as Sennacherib’s army suffered before 
the walls of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35-36), it is 
significant that he did not claim to have taken 
Jerusalem. It is indeed a most remarkable 
co nfi rmation of biblical history. 

Hezekiah Sent to Sennacherib. The 

inscription of Sennacherib relates to the account in 
2 Kings 18:14-16 and says: “Hezekiah himself, 
whom the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship 
had overwhelmed and whose . . . troops had 
deserted him, did send to me, later, to Nineveh, my 
lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 
talents of silver, precious stones, ... In order to 
deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as a slave 
he sent his [personal] messenger.” 


Lachish is among the cities named which suffered 
at the hands of Sennacherib (32:9). At Lachish 
there is a huge burn level dated to the destruction 
of Sennacherib in 701 B.c. On the walls of 
Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh, uncovered by Sir 
Austen Henry Layard, a long sculptured relief of 
his encampment at Lachish bore this inscription: 
“Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, 
sat upon [his] throne and passed in review the 
booty taken from Lachish.” 


Sennacherib’s Assassination. Concerning 
Sennacherib’s assassination (32:21; 2 Kings 
19:36-37), an Assyrian inscription says: “On the 
20th day of Tebet, Sennacherib was killed by his 
sons in revolt. On the 18th day of Sivan, 
Esarhaddon, his son, ascended the throne.” 

2 Chron. 33:1-20 MANASSEH, 
KING OF JUDAH (697-642 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 21:1-18.) Manasseh was the 
wickedest of all of Judah’s kings and had the 
longest reign — 55 years. He rebuilt the idols his 
father Hezekiah had destroyed and reestablished 
Baal worship. He burnt his own children in the 
fire. He filled Jerusalem with blood. Tradition 
says that he had the prophet Isaiah sawn in half. 


An inscription of King Esarhaddon of Assyria 
(681-668 B.c.) says, “During my march [to Egypt] 
22 kings from the seashore, the islands, and the 

mainland, servants who belong to me, brought 
heavy gifts to me and kissed my feet.” A related 
inscription lists these 22 kings, among whom is 
Manasseh, king of Judah. 

2 Chron. 33:21-25 AMON, KING 
OF JUDAH (643-641 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 2 1 : 19-25.) Amon reigned for 
two years and was wicked. 

2 Chron. 34-35 JOSIAH, KING 
OF JUDAH (641-609 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 22-23.) Josiah became king 
when he was eight years old and reigned for 31 
years. When he was 16, he began to seek after the 
God of David, and he began his reforms when he 
was 20. The finding of the Book of the Law, when 
Josiah was 26, gave great impetus to his reforms — 
the most thoroughgoing reformation Judah had 

known yet. But the people were at heart idolaters; 
the long and wicked reign of Manasseh had just 
about obliterated God from their thinking. Josiah’s 
reforms delayed, but could not avert, the fast 
approaching doom of Judah. 

Pharaoh’s march against Carchemish (35:20— 
24) gave a final blow to the sinking Assyrian 
Empire. Josiah, as a vassal of Assyria, considered 
it his duty to attack the Pharaoh. He did so at 
Megiddo and was killed. 

2 Chron. 36:1-4 JEHOAHAZ 


(Told also in 2 Kings 23:30-34.) After reigning all 
of three months, Jehoahaz was deposed by Pharaoh 
and taken to Egypt, where he died. 

2 Chron. 36:5-8 JEHOIAKIM, 

KING OF JUDAH (609-598 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 23:34-24:7.) Jehoiakim was 
placed on the throne by Pharaoh and reigned 11 
years. After three years he was subdued by 
Babylon (Daniel 1:1) and served the king of 
Babylon for three years. Then he revolted. The 
king of Babylon came and bound him in chains to 
carry him to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6). But he 
died, or was killed, before he could leave the city, 
and he received “the burial of a donkey — dragged 
away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem” 
(Jeremiah 22:19; 36:30). He was conceited, hard- 
hearted, and wicked, the exact opposite of his 
father Josiah. He repeatedly tried to kill the 
prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:21;36:26). 

2 Chron. 36:8-10 JEHOIACHIN 
(598-597 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 24:6-17.) Jehoiachin reigned 

for three months before he was taken to Babylon, 
where he lived at least 37 years (2 Kings 24:15; 


A number of storage jar handles bearing the seal 
impression “Belonging to Eliakim, steward of 
Jehoiachin” have been found in excavations at Tell 
Beit Mirsim, Beth Shemesh, and Ramat Rahel. 

Jehoiachin was released from prison in 
Babylon and given a regular allowance of rations 
by the king of Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30). 
Cuneiform ration tablets found at Babylon also 
indicate that Jehoiachin and his relatives received 
rations from the Babylonian monarch. 

2 Chron. 36 ZEDEKIAH, KING OF 
JUDAH (597-586 b.c.) 

(Told also in 2 Kings 24-25). Zedekiah was 
placed on the throne by King Nebuchadnezzar of 
Babylon and reigned for 11 years. He was a weak 

king. In his fourth year he visited Babylon, but later 
rebelled against it. Then Nebuchadnezzar came, 
destroyed Jerusalem, took Zedekiah, put out his 
eyes, and carried him in chains to Babylon, where 
he died in prison (Jeremiah 52:11). 

The people of Judah were taken to Babylonia, 
in what is known as the Babylonian captivity or the 
Babylonian exile. 

This was the apparent end of David’s kingdom. 
(See further under 2 Kings 25.) After the kingdom 
of Judah came to an end, Gedaliah was made 
governor of the region (2 Kings 25:22; see on 
Jeremiah 40). 

Some of the people who were left behind when 
most of Judah was deported to Babylon fled to 
Egypt, along with the prophet Jeremiah (2 Kings 
25:26; see on Jeremiah 42). 

Unlike the northern kingdom, which was 
deported to Assyria and disappeared from the 
scene, Judah survived its Babylonian captivity. 
The proclamation of Cyrus almost 50 years later 
would initiate the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the 
temple (v. 22; see on Ezra 1). 



Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther 

The three books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, 
which cover about 100 years (538-432 B.C.), form 
the closing section of Old Testament history. They 
tell the story of the Jews’ return from Babylon, of 
the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem, and of 
the reestablishment of the Jews’ national life in 
their homeland. 

The last three of the Old Testament prophets — 
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi — lived and 
worked during this same period of return and 

The Ex il e (586-538 B.c.) 

With the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 

586 b.c., the people of God entered a new phase of 
their history. The period from 586 to 538 B.c. is 
called the “Exilic period,” or the “Babylonian 
exile,” or the “Babylonian captivity.” By “exile” it 
is meant that a large number of Israelites and 
Judeans now were living outside of the Promised 
Land — in “foreign countries.” 

The deportations of Israelites had actually 
begun during the time of the Assyrian attacks on, 
and eventual conquest of, Israel in 733 and 722 
B.c. (See Deportation of Israel by Assyria in 2 
Kings and the chapter on Ezekiel .) After the battle 
of Carchemish (on the west bank of the Euphrates, 
on the modern border between Syria and Turkey) 
in 609 B.c., the Babylonians replaced the Assyrians 
as the world power. God used them as His 
instrument of judgment as they deported Judeans in 
605, 597, 586, and 582 B.c. In addition, it is 
probable that a good number of Israelites and 
Judeans emigrated of their own accord to Syria, 
Egypt, or even Asia Minor (Turkey) in order to 
avoid the onslaught of the Assyrians and 
Babylonians — thus beginning their “exile” from the 

land of promise. 

These deportees must have been asking 
themselves a number of questions. Given that God 
promised the land of Canaan to the descendants of 
Abraham forever — how is it that the land is now 
controlled by pagans, while we, God’s people, 
have been deported from it? If God chose the 
Davidic dynasty to rule forever (2 Samuel 7) — 
why is there now no reigning Davidic king (Psalm 
89)? How can God allow the place He Himself 
chose for His presence to dwell (Psalms 132, 137) 
— Jerusalem and God’s temple — to be in ruins and 
under foreign control? The answer, of course, was 
that the continual sinning of the leaders and of the 
people of Israel and Judah had led to God’s 
judgment upon them: the covenant curses of 
Deuteronomy 28 (especially vv. 32-37) and 
Leviticus 26 (vv. 33-39) had fallen upon them. 
(See sidebar Deuteronomy: A Treaty Between God 
and Israel in the chapter on Deuteronomy.) 

It was during this time of questioning and exile 
that the book of Kings (our 1 and 2 Kings) was 
written to show the people how their disobedience 

and that of their ancestors during the past 400 years 
had led to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the 
temple and to the sorry state of the Davidic 
dynasty. God’s people had not repented, in spite of 
the insistent and persistent call of God’s prophets 
— such as Elijah and Elisha — to do so. 

Returns from Exile (538, 458, and 444 B.c.) 

But God had also promised that, after judgment, 
restoration would follow. And in 539 B.c, (after the 
Persians had replaced the Babylonians as the 
world-dominating power) the Persian king Cyrus 
issued a decree that any Jews who wished to do so 
could return to Judah and rebuild their temple. 

There were actually three returns from 
Babylonia, as recorded in the books of Ezra and 
Nehemiah. After the first return, under Zerubbabel, 
the temple was rebuilt. After the second return, 
under Ezra, and the third return, under Nehemiah, 
the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. The events of 
the book of Esther fall between the first and second 
returns (between Ezra 6 and 7). 

The three returns: 

538 B.c. Zerubbabel 

With 42,360 Jews, 7,337 servants, 200 
singers, 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, 
6,720 donkeys, and 5,400 gold and silver 

• The temple is rebuilt under Zerubbabel 
the governor and Joshua the priest (Ezra 

• The prophets Haggai and Zechariah 
458 B.c. Ezra 

With 1,754 males, 100 talents of gold, 750 
talents of silver. It is not stated whether 
women and children also went. It takes four 

444 B.c, Nehemiah 

Nehemiah, as governor, goes with an armed 
escort to rebuild and fortify Jerusalem, at 
government expense 

• The walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt 

under Nehemiah the governor and Ezra 

the priest (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah) 

• The prophet Malachi 

The “Post-exi li c” Period (538-ca. 400 B.c.) 

The decree of Cyrus, the return led by Sheshbazzar 
in 538 B.c,, and the completion of the rebuilding of 
the temple in 516 B.c, “technically” meant that the 
Babylonian exile was over. Thus, the period from 
538 B.c. until ca. 400 B.c., when the prophetic 
voice ceased with the last of Israel’s prophets, is 
called the “post-exilic period.” The truth, of 
course, is that the majority of Jews living outside 
the Promised Land did not return to Judah, for very 
large Jewish communities flourished not only in 
Babylonia, but also in Egypt, Syria, and Asia 

On the international scene, Persia ruled the 
area from the Indus River in the east to the western 
shores of Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea. During 
Persian rule there were many new cultural 
developments: coinage came into more 

widespread use, the legal system developed, and a 
postal road from Susa (near ancient Babylon) to 

Sardis (near the Aegean coast), ca. 1,700 miles in 
length, aided long-distance communication. The 
fortunes of Jews living outside of Judea varied. 
Usually life in “exile” (later more commonly 
called “diaspora”) was not too bad — as evidenced 
by the Murashu documents, which provide details 
about Jewish trading — but on occasion Jews were 
persecuted — as recorded in the book of Esther and 
in the extrabiblical Aramaic documents found at 
Elephantine in southern Egypt. 

Many Jews, both in and out of the land of 
Judah, adopted the Aramaic language (Ezra 4:8— 
6:18; 7:12-26; and Daniel 2:4-7:28 are written in 
Aramaic). It may have been that the institution of 
the synagogue has its origins in this period — for 
how and where do you worship God when you 
don’t live in Judah or Jerusalem? (The Jews who 
lived in Elephantine had actually built a temple 
there during the 5th century B.c,!) It is evident that 
these scattered Jewish communities had their own 
leadership — note the elders mentioned in Ezekiel 
(8:1; 14:1; 20:1) — and some of them maintained 
close contact with the Jewish leadership in 

Jerusalem: Aramaic correspondence from the 5th 
century B.c. has been found from Elephantine in 
southern Egypt, addressed to Jews in Jerusalem. 

The Persian Empire 

The policy of the Assyrian and Babylonian 
kings had been to deport conquered peoples 
and scatter them in other lands. The policy of 
the Persian kings was exactly the opposite: 
they repatriated those peoples, that is, they 
sent them back to their own lands. 

The Persian kings were more humane than 
either the Assyrian or the Babylonian kings. 
One of the first acts of the first Persian king, 
Cyrus, a singularly noble and just monarch, 
was to authorize the return of the Jews to 
their own land. 

Five Persian kings played a role in the history 
of Judah: 

• Cyrus (539-530 b.c.) conquered Babylon 
(539 b.c.) and made Persia a world 
empire. He permitted the Jews to return 
to their homeland, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s 
prophecy (see sidebar A Summary of 
Isaiah’s Predictions in the chapter 

• Cambyses (530-522 b.c.) is thought to 
have been the Artaxerxes mentioned in 
Ezra 4:7, 11, 23, who stopped work on 
the temple. 

• Darius I (522-486 b.c.) authorized 

completion of the temple (Ezra 6). 

• Xerxes (Ahasuerus) (485-464 b.c.) is 
famous for his wars with Greece. Esther 
became his wife (see the chapter on 
Esther ). Mordecai his prime minister. 

• Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) (464-423 
b.c.) was very favorably disposed toward 
the Jews. He authorized Nehemiah, his 
cupbearer, to rebuild Jerusalem. 

There is not much written material to help 
illuminate the life of those who remained in the 
land during the exilic period. However, a recent 
archaeological discovery at Ketef Hinnom in 
Jerusalem seems to indicate a degree of prosperity 
for at least some of those who were left behind in 
the land by the Babylonians. But it must be 
remembered that Jerusalem and the surrounding 
cities had been devastated by the Babylonians, and 
that living conditions for most of those still living 
in the land must have been less than ideal. 

As the post-exilic period got under way and the 
temple and then the walls of Jerusalem were 
rebuilt in 516 and 444 B.c. respectively, the fragile 
Judean community was harassed by the Samaritans 
to the north, the Ammonites to the east, the Arabs 
to the south, and the Ashdodites to the west. It also 
seems reasonable to assume that at this time, when 
Judah was vulnerable, their age-old enemy the 
Edomites moved into the Hill Country of Judah, 
into the Hebron area. 

The temple, its priesthood, and its service 

were certainly focal points for the reconstituted 
Jewish community. It was during this time that the 
book of Chronicles was written, emphasizing that 
these institutions were an important legacy 
bequeathed to the post-exilic community. Israel’s 
history was retold with this in mind as the writer 
of Chronicles stressed the community’s connection 
to the past — even tracing genealogies back to 
Abraham and Adam! The writer also emphasized 
the biblical principle that obedience typically 
leads to blessing while disobedience leads to 
disaster; that Israel, as God’s people, was a unity; 
and that the activities of godly kings were divinely 
approved. All of this was to encourage the 
fledgling community to remain united and faithful 
to God. 

It was to this community that persons such as 
Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, 
and Malachi ministered, trying to assure them that 
God had not abandoned them. However, they 
seemed to be aware of the fact that although the 
exile had technically “ended,” God’s presence had 
not yet returned to the temple, nor had He 

delivered His people as completely as He had 
promised (compare Isaiah 40-66 and Jeremiah 
31). Even though they were aware that the actual 
return fell short of the return promised by the 
prophets, they, as God’s people, were being called 
upon to remain faithful to Him — to await the 
climactic deliverance from exile that was still to 

The End of the Persian Empire 

Almost a century after the time of Artaxerxes I (the 
king who had allowed Nehemiah to go back to 
Jerusalem and rebuild its walls), the last Persian 
king, Darius III, was defeated by Alexander the 
Great of Macedonia in the famous battle of Arbela, 
near the site of Nineveh, in 331 B.c. The end of the 
Persian Empire marked the beginning of the rise of 
Greece. For the first time in history, the center of 
world power shifted from Asia to Europe. Later it 
would shift even farther west, to Rome and the 
greatest empire the world had yet seen — the 
Roman Empire — of which the Jews and their 
country were a part at the time of the New 

Testament. (For a summary of the fascinating 400- 
year history from the time of Nehemiah to the time 
of Christ, see The 400 Years Between the 
Testaments .) 


Return from Captivity 
The Rebuilding of the Temple 

“Now I, King Artaxerxes, order all the 
treasurers of Trans-Euphrates to provide 
with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, a 
teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, 
may ask of you. . . . Whatever the God of 
heaven has prescribed, let it be done with 
diligence for the temple of the God of 
heaven. Why should there be wrath against 
the realm of the king and of his sons? ” 

— Ezra 7:21-23 

According to persistent Jewish tradition, Ezra was 
author of the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, 

and Nehemiah; the four books then were originally 
one work (see Author in 1 Chronicles; some think 
that Nehemiah himself may have written the book 
of Nehemiah). 

Ezra was a priest, the great-grandson of 
Hilkiah the priest, who, 160 years earlier, had 
directed King Josiah’s reformation (Ezra 1:1; 2 
Kings 22:8), and a most worthy descendant of his 
famous ancestor. He went from Babylon to 
Jerusalem in 457 B.c., 80 years after the Jews had 
first returned under Zerubbabel, and 13 years 
before Nehemiah came. 


The last two verses of 2 Chronicles are the same 
as the first two of Ezra, probably because 
Chronicles and Ezra were originally one book. 
This proclamation, permitting the Jews to return to 
Jerusalem, was issued shortly after Daniel had 
read the handwriting on the wall, in which it was 

declared that Babylon would fall to Persia — which 
happened that same night (Daniel 5:25-3 1). 

Daniel probably showed to Cyrus the 
prophecies that were thus fulfilled (Jeremiah 
25:11-12; 29:10) as well as the prophecies of 
Isaiah, who 200 years before had called Cyrus by 
name, stating that under him the Jews would return 
and rebuild Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:26-28; 45:1, 13). 
No wonder Cyrus had a high regard for the Jews’ 
God (v. 3). 


According to verses 64-65, a total of 42,360 Jews 
returned, plus servants. However, when the 
numbers in the list are added together, the total 
falls about 11,000 short of this number. This 
surplus of 11,000 is thought to have been 
composed of exiles from tribes other than Judah. 
Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned in 1 
Chronicles 9:3. Israel is named in Ezra 10:25. The 

term “all Israel” is used of those who returned, and 
12 bulls and 12 he-goats, representing the 12 
tribes, were sacrificed (2:70; 6:17; 8:35). This 
would make it appear as if the returning exiles of 
Judah, in their homeward journey, gathered in 
some from other tribes. It helps us to understand 
how, in New Testament times, Jews were still 
spoken of as the Twelve Tribes (Luke 22:30; Acts 
26:7; James 1:1). 


In the seventh month of the first year of their return 
the Israelites built the altar and kept the Feast of 
Tabernacles, in joyous thanksgiving to God. In the 
second month of the following year, when the 
foundation of the temple was laid, they made the 
heavens ring with their shouts of praise and 
thanksgiving. But the older men, who had seen the 
first temple, wept aloud, so insignificant would the 
new temple be compared with Solomon’s temple. 

The stele of King Ashurbanipal of Assyria in the British 

Zerubbabel (v. 2), the governor (Haggai 1:1), 
was a grandson of King Jehoiachin, who had been 
deported to Babylon (1 Chronicles 3:17-19). He 
was the one who would have been king, had there 

been a kingdom. With fine courtesy, Cyrus 
appointed him to be governor of Judah. 


As work on the temple and wall (v. 16) 
progressed, the peoples to whom the Jews’ land 
had been given, and their neighbors, began to 
object, and through intimidation and intrigue they 
succeeded in stopping the work for 15 years, until 
the reign of Darius I. 

Ezra 5-6 THE TEMPLE 

Darius I was friendly toward the Jews, and in his 
second year (520 B.c.), 16 years after the Jews had 
been allowed to go home, work on the temple was 
resumed with the encouragement of the prophets 
Haggai and Zechariah. Shortly thereafter came the 
decree from Darius for the temple to be completed, 

with an order to draw on the royal treasury for the 
needed funds. Within four years it was completed 
and dedicated amid great rejoicing. 

The famous Behistun inscription, which 
supplied the key to the ancient Babylonian 

language (see Mesopotamia in the chapter Writing, 
Books, and the Bible), was made by this same 


Between chapters 6 and 7 is a gap of about 60 
years. The temple was completed in 515 B.c., and 
Ezra came to Jerusalem in 458 B.c., in the reign of 
Artaxerxes I, who was Queen Esther’s stepson. 
Ezra the priest went to teach Judah the Law of 
God, to beautify the temple, and to restore the 
temple service. 


When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, he found a 
situation that made him heartsick. The people, 
priests, Levites, and leaders had freely 
intermarried with their idolatrous neighbors — a 

thing that God had again and again forbidden the 
Jews to do. In fact, it was the very thing that had 
led the Jews into idolatry before, which had been 
the cause of their captivity. God had sent prophet 
after prophet, and judgment after judgment, and at 
last had resorted to the captivity, almost wiping the 
nation out of existence. 

Now a little remnant had come home — and they 
are again up to their old tricks of intermarrying 
with idolatrous peoples. Ezra’s measures to rid 
them of their non-Jewish wives may seem severe 
to us, but it was effective. 

Ezra helped in further reforms, as noted in the 
book of Nehemiah. Tradition makes him the 
originator of synagogue worship and president of 
the Great Synagogue. 

The Great Synagogue was a council, consisting 
of 120 members, said to have been organized by 
Nehemiah in about 410 B.c., with Ezra as 
president. Its purpose was the rebuilding of the 
religious life of the returned captives. It is thought 
to have governed the returned Jews until about 275 
B.c, and to have played an important role in 

gathering, grouping, and restoring the canonical 
books of the Old Testament. 


The Walls of Jerusalem Are Rebuilt 

When all our enemies heard about this, all 
the surrounding nations were afraid and lost 
their self-confidence, because they realized 
that this work had been done with the help 
of our God. 

— Nehemiah 6:16 

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is 
your strength. ” 

— Nehemiah 8:10 

When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem in 444 B.c., 
Ezra had been there for 14 years. But Ezra was a 
priest, teaching religion to the people. Nehemiah 

came as civil governor, with authority from the 
king of Persia to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem 
and to make it once again a fortified city. By then, 
the Jews had been home nearly 100 years, but they 
had made little progress beyond rebuilding the 
temple — and a very insignificant temple at that — 
because whenever they would start work on the 
walls, their more powerful neighbors would either 
intimidate them into stopping or through intrigue 
get orders from the Persian court for the work to 

Neh. 1-2 NEHEMIAH’S 

Parts of the book are in the first person; they are 
direct quotations fromNehemiah’s official reports. 

Nehemiah was a man of prayer, patriotism, 
action, courage, and perseverance. His first 
impulse always was to pray (1:4; 2:4; 4:4, 9; 6:9, 
14). He spent four months in prayer before he 
made his request to the king ( 1 : 1 ; 2: 1). 

Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes 
(1:11; 2:1), a trusted and important official. 
Artaxerxes I was king of Persia (464-423 b.c.), 
son of Xerxes, and thus the stepson of Queen 
Esther, the Jewess. 

Esther became queen of Persia about 60 years 
after the Jews had returned to Jerusalem. This must 
have given the Jews great prestige at the Persian 
court. Esther most probably was still alive, and an 
influential personage in the palace, when both Ezra 
and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem. Our guess is that 
we have Esther to thank for Artaxerxes’ kindly 
feeling toward the Jews and his interest in having 
Jerusalem rebuilt. 


Jerusalem. Remains of the “Broad Wall” (3:8), 
the “Valley Gate” (3:13), the “Pool of Siloam” 
(3:15), and the “Water Gate” (2:14) have been 

found in the course of archaeological excavations 
in Jerusalem. The city that Nehemiah fortified was 
actually slightly smaller than the one the 
Babylonians had destroyed. In fact, it was smaller 
than Solomon’s Jerusalem — perhaps 35 acres in 
size. Nehemiah’s Jerusalem was completely 
limited to portions of the eastern hill, where the 
original City of David had stood. 

Nehemiah's Jerusalem 


* 9 * 1 ° 

Old-time enemies of the Jews, who were now in 
possession of the land — Moabites, Ammonites, 
Ashdodites, Arabians, and the recently imported 
Samaritans — craftily and bitterly opposed the 
rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. They 
mobilized their armies and marched against 
Jerusalem. But Nehemiah, with faith in God, 
skillfully armed and arranged his men and went 
straight ahead with the work, day and night. And in 
spite of all obstacles, the wall was finished in 52 
days. Almost a century and a half after its 
destruction in 586 B.c., Jerusalem was once again a 
fortified city. 


After the wall was built, Nehemiah and Ezra 
gathered the people together to organize their 
national life. Chapter 7 is about the same as Ezra 
2: it gives the list of those who had returned to 

Jerusalem with Zerubbabel nearly a century 
before. There were certain genealogical matters 
that had to be attended to. 

They read from the Book of the Law of 
God, making it clear and giving the 
meaning so that the people could 
understand what was being read. 

— Nehemiah 8:8 

Then, for seven days, every day from early 
morning till midday, Ezra and his helpers opened 
the Book of the Law, read from the Law of God, 
and provided explanations so that the people 
understood what they heard. This public reading 
and exposition of God’s Book brought a great 
wave of repentance among the people, a great 
revival, and a solemn covenant to keep the Law, as 
recorded in chapters 9-10. 

It should be noted that it was the finding of the 
Book of the Law that brought about Josiah’s great 

reformation (2 Kings 22). It was Martin Luther’s 
finding of a Bible that led to the Reformation and 
brought religious liberty to our modern world. The 
weakness of many present-day churches is their 
neglect of the very Bible they profess to follow — 
the great need of today’s pulpit is simple 
expository preaching. 

Neh. 9-12 COVENANT. 

In deep penitence and great earnestness, the people 
made a covenant: “In view of all this, we are 
making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, 
and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are 
affixing their seals to it.” They bound themselves 
to walk in God’s Law (9:38; 10:29). The wall was 
dedicated, and one-tenth of the population was 
brought into the city to live, and its government and 
temple services were organized. 


The last recorded acts of Nehemiah involve 
reforms concerning tithes, the Sabbath, and 
marriages between Jews and non-Jews. Nehemiah 
was governor of Judah for at least 12 years (5:14). 
Josephus says that he lived to a great age and 
governed Judah for the rest of his life. 


The Deliverance of the Jews from 

“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in 
Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink 
for three days, night or day. I and my maids 
will fast as you do. When this is done, I will 
go to the king, even though it is against the 
law. And if I perish, I perish. ” 

— Esther 4: 16 

In the canon, this book comes after the book of 
Nehemiah, but the events it describes took place 
about 30 years before Nehemiah. 

• The first group of Jews returned to Jerusalem 

in 538 B.c. Twenty years later the temple was 
completed (Ezra 1-6). 

• The story of Esther takes place about 40 years 
after the temple was rebuilt. She became 
queen of Persia in 478 B.c, and saved the 
Jews from being massacred in 473 B.c. 

• Fifteen years after Queen Esther saved the 
Jews, Ezra went to Jerusalem (458 B.c,), and 
13 years after that Nehemiah rebuilt the walls 
of Jerusalem. 

It seems that Esther made possible the work of 
Nehemiah. Her marriage to the king must have 
given Jews great prestige. It is impossible to guess 
what might have happened to the Hebrew nation 
had there been no Esther. Except for her, Jerusalem 
might never have been rebuilt, and there might 
have been a different story to tell to all future ages. 

This book of Esther is not just a story with a 
moral. It is about a very important historical event: 
the Hebrew nation’s deliverance from annihilation 
in the days following the Babylonian captivity. If 
the Hebrew nation had been wiped out of existence 

500 years before it brought Christ into the world, it 
would have made all the difference in the world: 
no Hebrew nation, no Messiah; no Messiah, a lost 
world. This beautiful Jewish girl of long ago, 
though she herself may not have known it, yet 
played her part in paving the way for the coming of 
the world’s Savior. 


Ahasuerus was another name for Xerxes, who 
ruled Persia from 486 to 464 B.c., one of the most 
illustrious monarchs of the ancient world. The 
great feast described in this chapter, as has been 
learned from Persian inscriptions, was held in 
preparation for his famous expedition against 
Greece, in which he fought the battles of 
Thermopylae and Salamis (480 B.c,). ft seems that 
he deposed Vashti in 483 B.c., before he left, and 
married Esther in 478 B.c., after he returned from 
his expedition against Greece (1:3; 2: 16). 

at Susa. Shushan, or Susa, 200 miles east of 
Babylon, was the winter residence of Persian 
kings. Its site was identified by W. K. Loftus 
(1852), who found an inscription of Artaxerxes II 
(404-359 B.c,): “My ancestor Darius built this 
palace in former times. In the reign of my 
grandfather [Artaxerxes I] it was burned. I have 
restored it.” 

This palace was the residence of Darius, who 
authorized the rebuilding of the temple; of Xerxes, 
Esther’s husband, and of Artaxerxes I, who 
authorized Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem. Susa 
was the place where Daniel had his vision (Daniel 
8). The remains of Susa are scattered over 100 
acres, and the site, beginning in 1851, has been 
excavated (except during the two World Wars) for 
more than 100 years! From these excavations, it is 
evident that the author of Esther was familiar with 
the city. The royal palace itself was almost 2 1/2 
acres in size, with a whole series of courtyards, 
audience hall, residences, and auxiliary rooms. 


Ahasuerus (Xerxes) died 13 years later. Esther, no 
doubt, lived far into the reign of her stepson, 
Artaxerxes. As queen- mother she may have been a 
person of influence in Persia in the days of Ezra 
and Nehemiah. 


The decree was a call to kill all the Jews in all the 
provinces (3:12-13). This was in the king’s 12th 
year (3:7), after Esther had been queen for five 
years. Her lament, “I have not been summoned to 
come to the king for these thirty days,” may 
indicate that the novelty of Esther had worn off, 
and Esther took a great risk in inviting the king to 
the banquet. 

But the king came, and when the king saw 

Esther again, his reaction shows that she still 
pleased him (5:3), even though she had been his 
wife for five years. 

The outcome was that Haman was hanged, and 
his place was given to Mordecai, Esther’s cousin. 

The name of God is not mentioned in the book, 
perhaps because it may have been copied from 
Persian records. Yet God’s providential care of 
His people is nowhere more evident. 


A person named Marduka, whose name was found 
on a cuneiform tablet from Borsippa in southern 
Iraq, was evidently a minister at the Persian court 
in Susa and may actually have been the biblical 


Since a decree issued by a Persian king could not 
be changed (8:8; Daniel 6:15), the decree for the 

Jews’ massacre could not be reversed. But Esther 
did persuade the king to make another decree that 
authorized the Jews to resist and slay all who 
would attack them, which they did. Thus Esther 
saved the Jewish race from annihilation. This was 
the origin of the Feast of Purim, which Jews still 
observe. Esther was not only beautiful, but wise. 
We admire her for her patriotism and bravery and 

Esther at Susa 


This story shows us that God’s favor can cause 
civil law to be reversed. It also shows how God 
uses His faithful servants to influence and direct 
ungodly authority. What a comfort this is in a 
world that has so many ungodly leaders. We must 
pray for the godly civil servants so that God’s plan 
can be done through them as it was with Esther. 


Mordecai became more and more powerful; he 
was second in rank after the king of Persia (9:4; 
10:3). His acts of power and his greatness were 
written in detail in the official records of the kings 
of Media and Persia. This was in the reign of 
Xerxes, the mighty monarch of the Persian Empire. 
Xerxes’ prime minister was a Jew; his favorite 
wife was a Jewess — Mordecai and Esther, the 
brains and heart of the palace! This paved the way 
for the work of Ezra and Nehemiah. Like Joseph in 

Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, so here God used 
Mordecai and Esther in Persia. 

Job-Song of Songs 

Poetry and wisdom literature in the Old Testament 
are closely related. Wisdom literature is generally 
poetic in form, but the reverse is not true: not all 
Old Testament poetry is wisdom literature. 

Five Old Testament books are clearly poetic: 
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song 
of Songs. (In the Flebrew Bible these books are not 
grouped together as they were in the Septuagint and 
are in our Bibles.) Of these five books, four are 
wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of 
Songs), while the book of Psalms is not. 

1. Poetry 

As much as one-third of the Old Testament may be 
poetry. The reason for the vagueness of this 
statement is that it is sometimes difficult to 

determine where Hebrew prose ends and Hebrew 
poetry begins. 

A few books of the Old Testament are 
essentially without poetry: Leviticus, Ruth, Ezra, 
Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, and Malachi — but even 
in these books an occasional poetic form slips in. 

And some books are not poetic but contain 
well-defined poems, such as Genesis 49; Exodus 
15; Deuteronomy 33; and Judges 5. 

Characteristics of Hebrew Poetry 

English poetry usually rhymes. Hebrew poetry 
does not. Instead, Hebrew poetry has two primary 
characteristics that can be easily recognized, even 
in an English translation: imagery and parallelism. 

Figurative Language and Images 

• Perhaps the best-known example is “The Lord 
is my shepherd” (Psalm 23: 1; a metaphor). 

• Another example is “I am like an olive tree 
flourishing in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8; 
a simile). 

• There is exaggeration for effect: “With your 
help I can advance against a troop; with my 
God I can scale a wall” (Psalm 18:29; 

• Hebrew poetry also often speaks of inanimate 
things as if they were alive: “Let the rivers 
clap their hands, let the mountains sing 
together for joy” (Psalm 98:8; 


Parallelism involves a relationship of thought 
between two or more lines. It can be looked at as a 
“rhythm of thought.” For example, 

• “The Lord watches over the way of the 
righteous, but the way of the wicked will 
perish” (Psalm 1:6; the second line states the 
opposite of the first). 

• “For as high as the heavens are above the 
earth, so great is his love for those who fear 
him” (Psalm 103:11; the first line is a simile, 
the second line its literal meaning; 

emblematic parallelism). 

• “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the 
land and enjoy safe pasture” (Psalm 37:3; the 
second line completes the thought of the first 
line; synthetic or climactic parallelism). 

• “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? 
Who may live on your holy hill?” (Psalm 
15:1; both lines express the same thought in 
different words; synonymous parallelism). 

Other Characteristics 

• Hebrew poetry also uses refrains, for 
example in Psalms 42-43, where the refrain 
is found three times: “Why are you downcast, 
O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put 
your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, 
my Savior and my God.” 

• Sometimes the same statement is made both at 
the beginning and at the end of a poem, for 
example in Psalm 118, which begins and ends 
with the words “Give thanks to the Lord, for 
he is good; his love endures forever.” 

• Finally, there is the use of acrostic patterns, in 
which the first line of a psalm or poem (for 
example, in the book of Lamentations) begins 
with the first letter of the alphabet, the second 
line or strophe with the second letter of the 
alphabet, and so on. An example is Psalm 
119; in many Bibles the Hebrew letter that 
begins each strophe is printed (Aleph, Beth, 

2. Wisdom Literature 

The Hebrew word for wisdom has a much broader 
meaning than the English word “wisdom.” It 
includes, for example, skill in the making of things, 
which is akin to our idea of craftsmanship (Exodus 
31:3; Jeremiah 9: 17). 

Wisdom in Hebrew encompasses the 
willingness and ability to rightly perceive, and to 
be rightly related to, the created world in all its 
aspects. God has made the world a certain way, 
and wisdom means living in accordance with that 
basic structure of the universe. 

Wisdom literature is poetic in form but 
practical in content. It does not try to communicate 
factual or abstract knowledge but rather to teach 
practical skill in living. Wisdom literature, 
therefore, is the Old Testament’s “instruction 
manual for life.” 

Jeremiah 18:18 shows how important wisdom 
was considered to be. It is mentioned alongside the 
Law and the Prophets: “For the teaching of the law 
by the priest will not be lost, nor will counsel from 
the wise, nor the word from the prophets.” 

The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, the 
Song of Songs, and some of the psalms, such as 
Psalms 1 and 119, are traditionally considered 
wisdom literature. 

• Job is wisdom because it deals with the 
central issue of faith and suffering. 

• Ecclesiastes is wisdom because it warns 
against cynicism and points the reader toward 
simple faith in God. 

• The Song of Songs is wisdom because it 
describes the intimacy of human marital love. 

In the New Testament, the letter of James is 
reminiscent of Old Testament wisdom literature. 

Ki nds of Wisdom Statements 

Some of the more significant types of wisdom 
statements are 

• Aphorisms. This is what we usually think of 
as a “proverb”: a short, pithy saying that has 
general validity, such as our “A stitch in time 
saves nine.” Much of the book of Proverbs, 
beginning with chapter 10, consists of 

• Instruction. These are longer, stylized 
discussions about wisdom, such as Proverbs 

• “Better” sayings. Better is A with B than C 
with D. For example, “Better a little with 
righteousness than much gain with injustice” 
(Proverbs 16:8). 

• Disputation (verbal controversy). The best 
example is the book of Job. 


The Problem of Suffering 

“Shall we accept good from God, and not 
trouble? ” 

— Job 2:10 

“I know that my Redeemer lives, 

and that in the end he will stand upon the 

And after my skin has been destroyed, 
yet in my flesh I will see God. ” 

—Job 19:25-26 

Job is the first of the so-called poetic or wisdom 
books, a group of five books that also includes 
Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of 

Songs. It is a magnificent book that deals with the 
problem of suffering: if God is good and just, why 
do people suffer? 

The Scene of the Book 

The land of Uz (1: 1) is thought to have been along 
the border between Palestine and Arabia, 
extending from Edom north and east toward the 
Euphrates River, skirting the caravan route 
between Babylon and Egypt. 


In a postscript to the book of Job, the Septuagint, 
following ancient tradition, identified Job with 
Jobab, the second king of Edom (Genesis 36:33). 
Names and places mentioned in the book seem to 
give it a setting among the descendants of Esau 
(see under chapter 2). The book has the 
atmosphere of very primitive times and seems to 
have its setting among the early tribes descended 
from Abraham, along the northern border of 
Arabia, roughly contemporaneous with Israel’s 
stay in Egypt. 

Author of the Book 

Nothing is known about the author of the book. 
Ancient Jewish tradition ascribed the book to 
Moses. We could speculate that while Moses was 
in the wilderness of Midian (Exodus 2:15), which 
bordered on the country of the Edomites, he could 
have heard the story of Job from Job’s 
descendants. Since Job was a descendant of 
Abraham, Moses could naturally recognize him as 
being within the circle of God’s revelation. 
Modern critics assign a much later date to the book 
of Job, but in the end it is the content of the book 
that is important, not our speculative guesses about 
its origins. 

Nature of the Book 

Job may be called a historical poem, that is, a 
poem based on an event that actually took place. 
Job was a great and well-known man in his part of 
the world. All at once, in a single day, he was 
crushed by a number of overwhelming calamities. 
His vast herds of camels were stolen, and those 
who guarded the camels were killed by a band of 

Chaldean robbers. At the same time, his herds of 
oxen were stolen, and those who took care of them 
were killed by a band of Sabean robbers, and his 
7000 sheep and their attending servants were 
killed by a thunderstorm To top it all off, his 10 
children were all killed by a cyclone, and Job 
himself came down with a most hideous and 
painful disease. 

Job’s fate became known far and wide, and for 
months Job was the topic of public conversation 
everywhere (7:3). The book contains some of the 
things that Job, his friends, and God said or wrote. 

Subject of the Book 

The book of Job deals with the problem of human 
suffering. Since very early times, people have been 
troubled by the awful inequalities and injustices of 
life: how could a good God make a world like this, 
where there is so much suffering? The truth is that 
God made a good and perfect world (Genesis 
1 :3 1). He created man and woman and placed them 
in the Garden of Eden, where they were in perfect 
relationship with Him — every need was met and 

they were greatly blessed. Unfortunately, they 
listened to Satan’s deceiving message: “For God 
knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be 
opened, and you will be like God, knowing good 
and evil.” Adam and Eve’s disobedience separated 
them and all mankind from the good and perfect 
world that God made for His people. Because of 
their sin, all people are born into a world of 

Fortunately, God had a plan to reunite Himself 
with man and woman so that mankind may once 
again be free from suffering. God sent His Son 
Jesus to pay the price for our sins. Through His 
death and resurrection, mankind has the 
opportunity to regain its right relationship with 
God and ultimately to live an eternal life free from 

Job had very little knowledge of God. Most of 
God’s Word had not been written yet. Job, with the 
“help” of his friends, is trying to interpret his 
suffering without “knowledge” of God (38:1; 
42:1-3). Spending time with his friends trying to 
determine the cause of this suffering does not 

benefit Job — rather, it prolongs his suffering. 
Eventually Job stops talking and listens to God. 
Job receives “knowledge,” or revelation, of God 
as the omnipotent Creator. With this revelation, Job 
acknowledges that God can do all things (42:2). 
He is now able to focus on the awe-inspiring 
reality of God instead of on his own suffering. Job 
repents, and God delivers him from his suffering. 
God then instructs Job to pray an intercessory 
prayer for his friends. Job is obedient to God and 
prays for his friends. After Job’s prayer, God 
restores Job to prosperity. God actually doubles 
Job’s fortune and blesses the latter part of Job’s 
life more than the first. 

In the end, Job’s battle with Satan is over and 
God restores Job. God does not allow us to suffer 
without reason. At times the cause of the suffering 
may be hidden from our understanding in the 
mystery of God’s divine purpose (see Isaiah 55:8— 
9). But we must trust in Him and always turn to 
Him, even in times of suffering. What a powerful 
witness it is to the world for Christians to not be 
full of anger and resentment toward God when 

suffering! We know that He is a God who loves us 
and does only what is right. 

The Structure of the Book 

Apart from the introduction (chaps. 1-2) and the 
conclusion or epilogue (42:7-17), the book of Job 
consists of speeches by Job, by his friends, and 
finally by God Himself. 

Job’s three friends — Eliphaz, Bildad, and 
Zophar — take turns trying to explain to Job why he 
is suffering, and Job answers each in turn. They go 
for three rounds (chaps. 4-14; 15-21; 22-26). In 
the first two rounds, all three friends speak up; in 
the third round only Eliphaz and Bildad speak, 
while Zophar remains silent — he has given up on 

Job then makes a long speech in which he calls 
for vindication, since he feels that his suffering is 
unjust (chaps. 29-31). After this a fourth friend, 
Elihu, speaks up and cautions Job against blaming 
God (chaps. 32-37). Finally, God Himself 
addresses Job in some of the most majestic 
chapters of the Bible (chaps. 38-42:6). Job 

repents, and God blesses Job even more than 

Job, His Friends, and the Problem of Suffering 

In reading through the book of Job, we must 
remember that Job never knew why he was 
suffering — nor what the final outcome would be. 
The first two chapters of Job explain to us why it 
happened and make it clear that the reason for his 
suffering was not punishment for sin, but rather a 
test of Job’s faith that God was confident Job 
would pass. But while we as readers of Job know 
this, Job himself did not. 



The book opens with an account of Job, a desert 
prince — or what was in those days called a king — 
who had immense wealth and influence and was 
famous for his integrity, his piety, and his 
benevolence: a good man, who suffered fearful 

reverses that came so suddenly and 
overwhelmingly that it stunned all of those who 
heard about it. 

Satan accused Job of having ulterior motives 
for being a good man — of being mercenary. Then 
God permitted Satan to test his accusation. Job 
stood the test and in the end was blessed more than 

i I 

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, 
and naked I will depart. 

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken 

may the name of the Lord be praised. ” 

—Job 1:21 

Job’s disease (2:7) is thought to have been a 
form of leprosy, perhaps complicated by 
elephantiasis, one of the most horrible and painful 
diseases known in the oriental world. 

Job’s Friends 

Three friends come to comfort Job in his suffering. 
For seven days and nights they do fine: they simply 
sit with Job. “Then they sat on the ground with him 
for seven days and seven nights. No one said a 
word to him, because they saw how great his 
suffering was” (2:13). 

• Eliphaz the Temanite (2:11) was a 
descendant of Esau (Genesis 36:11), an 

• Bildad the Shuhite was a descendant of 
Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:2). 

• Zophar the Naamathite was of unknown 
origin or locality. All three were probably 
nomad princes. 

• A fourth friend, who does not enter the picture 
until after the other three have quit speaking, 
is Elihu the Buzite (32:2), a descendant of 
Abraham’s brother Nahor (Genesis 22:21). 

In the conversations that follow, Job speaks 
nine times; Eliphaz, three times; Bildad, three 

times; Zophar, twice; Elihu, once; and God, in a 
majestic finale, once. 

All three friends try to explain that there is 
— has to be — a connection between Job’s present 
suffering and his past life. They are looking for a 
logical, cause-and-efifect relationship. Their 
arguments can all be reduced to this: 

a. Job is suffering. 

b. God is just and would not allow a person 
to suffer without reason. 

c. Therefore, Job must have done something 
bad to deserve this suffering. 

Before his friends come, Job refuses to blame 
God: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; 
may the name of the Lord be praised” (1:21); and, 
“Shall we accept good from God, and not 
trouble?” (2:10). 

But the more Job defends himself against the 
logic of his friends, the more he adopts their 
approach and builds his own argument: 

a. I am suffering. 

b. I know that I have done nothing to deserve 
this suffering. 

c. The logical conclusion would be that, 
therefore, God must be unjust. 

But Job never quite draws that final 
conclusion; rather, it is, 

c. Therefore, God has some explaining to do. 

The three friends each base their accusations 
on different arguments. 

• Eliphaz appeals to experience and 
observation: “Consider now: Who, being 
innocent, has ever perished? Where were the 
upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, 
those who plow evil and those who sow 
trouble reap it” (4:7-8). 

• Bildad appeals to tradition: “Ask the former 
generations and find out what their fathers 
learned, for we were born only yesterday and 

know nothing, and our days on earth are but a 
shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell 
you? Will they not bring forth words from 
their understanding?” (8:8-10). 

• Zophar arrogantly speaks as if he knows 
exactly what God thinks — he appeals to his 
own view of God: ”Oh, how I wish that God 
would speak, that he would open his lips 
against you and disclose to you the secrets of 
wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. 
Know this: God has even forgotten some of 
your sin” (11:5-6). Ironically, when God 
finally does speak, it is not to condemn Job, 
but to condemn Zophar and his friends (42:7- 

The final answer Job receives is not 
philosophical or logical, ft is a majestic 
presentation by God Himself of who He is (38:1- 
42:6) — the only satisfactory answer to the problem 
of human suffering, ft does not answer the 
questions our logical mind comes up with, but it 
will satisfy our heart: “1 know that my Redeemer 

lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the 
earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in 
my flesh I will see God” (19:25-26). 

The grand lesson of the book as a whole is that 
Job, through his suffering, in the end comes to see 
God in His majesty and greatness as he had never 
seen Him before. That is the true reward. The fact 
that Job is also abundantly rewarded with greater 
prosperity and blessedness than he had at first is 
almost an afterthought (42:12-16). 


Job wishes he had never been born and longs for 


Chapters 4-5. Eliphaz speaks. He advises Job to 
turn to God (5:8) and suggests that if Job would 

only repent, his troubles would disappear (5:17- 

Chapters 6-7. Job’s reply. Job is 

disappointed in his friends. He longs for sympathy, 
not stinging reproof (6:14-30). He seems dazed. 
He knows full well that he is not a wicked man, yet 
his body is “clothed with worms” (7:5). He just 
cannot understand: even if he has sinned, it surely 
was not so serious as to deserve such terrible 
punishment. He prays that he may die (6:9). 

Chapter 8. Bildad speaks. He insists that God 
is just and that Job’s troubles must be evidence of 
his wickedness — if he will only turn to God, all 
will be well again. 

Chapters 9-10. Job’s reply. Job insists that he 
is not guilty (10:7) and that God sends misfortune 
on the blameless as well as the wicked (9:22). He 
complains bitterly and wishes again that he had 
never been born ( 10:18-22). 

Chapter 11. Zophar speaks. He brutally and 
arrogantly tells Job that his punishment is less than 
he deserves (v. 6), and he insists that if Job will 
put away his sin, his sufferings will pass and be 

forgotten, and security, prosperity, and happiness 
will return (13- 19). 

Chapters 12-14. Job’s reply. He grows 
sarcastic at their cutting words: “Doubtless you are 
the people, and wisdom will die with you! But I 
have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to 
you. Who does not know all these things?” ( 12:2— 
3). They’re simply stating (and restating) 
conventional wisdom, but it doesn’t apply here! 

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in 

—Job 13:15 

Job says he wants to “speak to the Almighty 
and to argue my case with God. You, however, 
smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, 
all of you!” (13:3-4). He tells them in no uncertain 
terms that he wants them to shut up: “If only you 
would be altogether silent! For you, that would be 
wisdom” (13:5; v. 13). 

Job asks God to speak and to tell him what it is 
he has done wrong (13:20-23). 


Chapter 15. Eliphaz’s second speech. The 

argument becomes heated. His sarcasm becomes 
bitter (vv. 2-13). Job’s eyes flash (v. 12). 

Chapters 16-17. Job’s reply. If you were in 
my place, I could shake my head at you and “make 
fine speeches against you.” The difference is that 
“my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my 
lips would bring you relief’ (16:4-5). Only those 
who have suffered can truly enter into the suffering 
of others — as Christ can understand and enter into 
our suffering. Job is desperate: “Who can see any 
hope forme?” (17:15). 

Chapter 18. Bildad’s second speech. In a fit 

of anger, he cries to Job, Why do you “tear 
yourself to pieces in your anger?” (v. 4). And 
assuming Job’s wickedness, he tries to frighten Job 

into repentance by depicting the awful doom of the 

Chapter 19. Job’s reply. His friends abhor 
him (v. 19); his wife is a stranger to him (v. 17); 
children despise him (v. 18); he begs for some 
compassion from his friends: “Have pity on me, 
my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has 
struck me. Why do you pursue me as God does? 
Will you never get enough of my flesh?” (v. 21). 

Then, suddenly, out of the depths of despair, as 
the sunlight breaks through a rift in the clouds, Job 
bursts forth into one of the most sublime 
expressions of faith ever uttered: “I know that my 
Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand 
upon the earth. And after my skin has been 
destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself 
will see him with my own eyes — I, and not 
another. How my heart yearns within me!” (vv. 25- 

Chapter 20. Zophar’s second speech. Zophar 
is offended by Job’s words. Assuming Job’s 
wickedness, he sets out to portray the deplorable 
fate in store for the wicked. 

“But he knows the way that I take; when 
he has tested me, I 
will come forth as gold.” 

—Job 23:10 

i i 

Chapter 21. Job’s reply. Job agrees that the 
wicked suffer in the end — but in the meantime they 
seem to be doing rather well. They grow old and 
increase in power, and their homes are safe and 
free from fear (vv. 7-9). The prosperity of the 
wicked undermines the friends’ argument — there 
seems to be no necessary connection between 
suffering and wickedness! (v. 34). Suffering seems 
to be a tool that Satan uses to deceive the 
righteous. The wicked are already lost souls — why 
would Satan waste any time on them? Their self- 
centered lifestyle will likely keep them in Satan’s 
camp without any extra effort on his part. 


Chapter 22. Eliphaz’s third speech. He bears 
down harder and harder on Job’s wickedness, 
claiming especially that Job has mistreated the 

Chapters 23-24. Job’s reply. He again 
protests his blamelessness. “I have not departed 
from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the 
words of his mouth more than my daily bread” 
(23:12). This shows that Job does not base his 
claim to blamelessness on his own feelings, but 
rather measures himself against what God Himself 
has said — which makes it all the more difficult to 
understand why God does not give Job some kind 
of explanation. 

Chapter 25. Bildad’s t hi rd speech. It is a very 
short speech. They have reached a stalemate. 
Neither side wants to give in, and the debate 
simply fizzles. Zophar doesn’t even bother to 
speak again. 

Chapter 26-27. Job’s reply. Job states his 
dilemma as bluntly as he can. On the one hand, “I 
will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I 
will not deny my integrity” (27:5). On the other 
hand, “the fate God allots to the wicked” (27:13) 
is annihilation — they will be no more, and all they 
possess will go to others. Job’s argument and the 
friends’ argument, side by side, without resolution. 


Chapter 28 interrupts not only the flow but also the 
tone of Job’s argument. This chapter is very much 
like the book of Proverbs — a discussion of the 
question where wisdom may be found. 

Job 29-31 JOB’S CALL FOR 

The tone of these chapters is different from that in 
earlier chapters. Job no longer is in the heat of the 
argument. He seems deflated and sounds sad rather 
than angry. But he continues to call for vindication. 

He contrasts his past prosperity, happiness, 
honor, respect, kindness, and usefulness (chap. 29) 
with his present sufferings (chap. 30). Then he 
wearily asks that if he had done any of the things 
his three friends accused him of, God might tell 
him what it was (chap. 3 1). And with that more or 
less resigned speech, Job finally runs out of things 
to say — which is when he can begin to listen to 


Job had silenced the three friends. Elihu was angry 
at them because they falsely accused Job. And he 
was angry with Job because as the argument wore 
on, Job increasingly was intent on justifying 
himself rather than God. Now it was Elihu’s turn to 
tell them a thing or two. 

Elihu correctly points out that Job is coming 
very close to accusing God of being unjust. Elihu 
paves the way for God’s speech to Job. And in the 
end, God is angry with the first three friends, but 
not with Elihu. 

Job 38-41 GOD SPEAKS 

These are some of the most awe-inspiring chapters 
in the Bible. God speaks to Job, but not with 
answers to the questions Job had been hurling at 
Him. Rather, God turns it around: He does the 
questioning and asks Job to answer Him. God 
shows and reminds Job of His power and majesty 
— of who He is. And He asks Job if he is anything 
compared to God’s greatness. 

Job is speechless and admits that he has no 
answer (40:4-5). God continues — until in the end 
Job repents. Job, the man who thought he knew 
God, now says, “My ears had heard of you but now 
my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself 
and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5-6). Through 

his suffering, Job goes from a limited 
understanding of God to a life-changing experience 
of the greatness, majesty, and power of God — but 
also an experience of God’s love, since God gives 
Job a personal answer to a very real and difficult 
question. But it is an answer that comes only after 
Job runs out of words, so that he can listen. 

Job 42:7-17 EPILOGUE— JOB 

After Job repents, God instructs him to pray for his 
friends. After Job prays, God makes him 
prosperous again and gives him twice as much as 
he had before his suffering (42:10). Job had come 
through his trials magnificently, and God blessed 
his old age with generous rewards (42: 12-17). 

Job’s obedience in praying for his friends 
marks a turning point in his life. His experience 
seems to call us to pray for those who cause us to 


Israel’s Hymn Book and Prayer Book 

Why are you downcast, O my soul? 

Why so disturbed within me? 

Put your hope in God, 
for I will yet praise him, 
my Savior and my God. 

— Psalm 42: 11 

Authorship of the Psalms 

In the titles or superscriptions of the Psalms, 73 
psalms are ascribed to David, 12 to Asaph, 11 to 
the sons of Korah, two to Solomon (72, 127), one 
to Moses (90), and one to Ethan (89); 50 of the 
psalms are anonymous. 

Some of the anonymous psalms may have been 
written by the author of the preceding psalm so that 
one title applies to both psalms. David, no doubt, 
was author of some of the anonymous psalms. 

But the titles are not a certain indication of 
authorship, since “of,” “to,” and “for” are the same 
preposition in Hebrew. A psalm “of’ David may 
have been one that he himself wrote, or it may have 
been written “for” David or dedicated “to” David. 

However, the titles are very ancient, and the 
most natural assumption is that they indicate 
authorship. Some modern critics have made a 
desperate effort to read David out of the picture. 
But there is every reason to accept, and no 
substantial reason to question, that the book of 
Psalms is largely the work of David. The New 
Testament recognizes it as such. 

Thus we speak of the Psalms as the psalms of 
David, because he was the principal writer or 
compiler. (Similarly, we refer to the book of 
Proverbs as the proverbs of Solomon, even though 
not all of them were written by him.) ft is generally 
accepted that a few psalms were in existence 

before David’s time and formed the nucleus of a 
hymnal for worship. This was greatly enlarged by 
David, added onto from generation to generation, 
and brought to completion, it is thought, in its 
present form by Ezra. 

David was a warrior of great bravery, a 
military genius, and a brilliant statesman who led 
his nation to its pinnacle of power. He was also a 
poet and a musician, and he loved God with all his 

David’s creation of the Psalms was in reality a 
far grander accomplishment than his creation of the 
kingdom. The book of Psalms is one of the noblest 
monuments of the ages and has outlasted David’s 
original kingdom by more than two millennia. 

In the Psalms the real character of David is 
portrayed. And in the Psalms God’s people 
generally see a pretty fair picture of themselves, of 
their struggles, their sins, their sorrows, their 
aspirations, their joys, their failures, and their 

David has earned the undying gratitude of 
millions upon millions of God’s redeemed people 

for the Psalms. 

Jesus was very fond of the Psalms. He said that 
many things in the Psalms referred to Him (Luke 
24:44). So thoroughly did they become a part of 
Him that in His dying agonies on the cross He 
quoted from them (22:1; Matthew 27:46; 31:5; 
Luke 23:46). 

Of the 283 quotations from the Old Testament 
in the New Testament, 116 (more than 40 percent) 
are from the Psalms. 

Classification of the Psalms 

From very ancient times, the Psalms have been 
divided into five books. This division is already 
found in the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint, 
perhaps in imitation of the five books of the 
Pentateuch. Within these five books of psalms there 
are some further subgroups. 

The Psalms Were Written to Be Sung 

The Bible is full of singing — singing as an act of 
worship, singing as an expression of gratitude, 
even singing to express sorrow and lament. 

At the dawn of creation “the morning stars 
sang together, and all the angels of God 
shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). 

Moses sang and taught the people to sing 
(Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32). 

Israel sang on the journey to the Promised 
Land (Numbers 21:17). 

Deborah and Barak sang praise to God 
(Judges 5). 

David sang with all his heart (Psalm 104:33). 
Hezekiah’s singers sang the words of David 
(2 Chronicles 29:28-30). 

Two choirs sang when the walls of Jerusalem 
were finished (Nehemiah 12:42). 

Jesus and the disciples sang at the Last 
Supper (Matthew 26:30). 

Paul and Silas sang in prison (Acts 16:25). 

In heaven, 10,000 times 10,000 angels sing, 
and the whole redeemed creation joins in the 
chorus (Revelation 5:11-13). In heaven 
everybody will sing — and will never tire of 


Smaller Groups of Psalms 


Book 1 

Psalms 1 —4 1 

[no groups] 

Book II 

Psalms 42-72 

Psalms of Sons of Korah, 

Miktam Psalms. 56—60 

Miktam is probably 
a musical or 
literary term 

Book III 

Psalms 73-89 

Psalms of Asaph. 73—83 

Book IV 

Psalms 90-106 

[no groups] 

Book V 

Psalms 107-150 

Hallel Psalms. 1 1 3- 1 1 8 
Songs of Degrees. 1 20— 1 34 

Psalms of Thanksgiving. 

Psalms for Protection. 

Hallelujah Psalms. 146-150 

Hallel = praise 
Pilgrim songs 

Hallelujah — 

praise the Lord 

Liturgical and Musical Notations in the Psalms 

The meaning of a number of Hebrew terms used in 
the titles of the Psalms is not clear, for example, 
miktam (Psalms 16, 56-60) and maskil (Psalm 32 
and others). These terms are very ancient and 
predate the Septuagint. 

The word selah occurs 71 times in the Psalms; 
it is found at intervals in some Psalms as well as at 
the end. It may be a musical marker, but its 
meaning is not clear. 

Leading Ideas in the Psalms 

Trust is the foremost idea in the book, repeated 
over and over. Whatever the occasion, joyous or 
terrifying, it drove David straight to God. 
Whatever his weaknesses, David literally lived in 

Praise was always on his lips. David was 
always asking God for something and always 
thanking Him with his whole soul for the answers 
to his prayers. 

Musical Instruments 

The Israelites had stringed instruments (harp 
and lyre), wind instruments (flute, pipe, horn, 
trumpet), and instruments to be beaten 
(tambourine and cymbal). David had an 
orchestra of 4000, for which he made the 
instruments (1 Chronicles 23:5). 

• Harp: The harp seems to have been a 
vertical, angular instrument, larger in size, 

louder, and lower in pitch than the lyre. 
Lyre: It is generally accepted that the 
lyre was a ten-stringed, rectangular 

Flute: The flute, or shepherd’s pipe, was 
made of reeds and was used both for 
entertainment and for calming the sheep. 
Pipe: The pipe (chalil) was a double- 
reed instrument and is the biblical 
equivalent of the modern oboe. 

Horn: A horn, or shofar, was originally a 
ram’s horn without a mouthpiece. It was 
used chiefly as a signal instrument in both 
religious and secular ceremonies. 
Trumpet: Jewish historian Josephus has 
described the trumpet as a straight tube, 
“a little less than a cubit long,” its 
mouthpiece wide and its body expanding 
into a bell-like ending. 

Tambourine: The tambourine was a 
small drum made of a wooden hoop and 
probably two skins, without any jingling 

contrivance such as the modern 
tambourine has. 

• Cymbal: The only permanent percussive 
instrument in the temple orchestra was 
the cymbal. In Psalm 150 two types of 
cymbals are mentioned. The larger 
clashing cymbals were played with two 
hands. The resounding cymbals were 
much smaller and were played with one 
hand — the cymbals being attached to the 
thumb and the middle finger. 

Rejoice is another favorite word. David’s 
unceasing troubles could never dim his joy in God. 
Over and over he cries, “Sing,” or “Shout for joy.” 
Psalms is a book of devotion to God. 

Unfailing love (K.JY mercy) occurs hundreds 
of times. David often spoke of the justice, 
righteousness, and anger of God, but God’s 
unfailing love was what he always returned to. 

Messianic Psalms 

Many psalms, written 1000 years before Christ, 
contain statements that are wholly inapplicable to 
any person in history other than Christ. These are 
called messianic psalms. (The Greek word Christ 
is the same as the Hebrew Messiah .) Some 
references to David seem to point forward to the 
coming great King in David’s family. Besides 
passages that are clearly messianic, there are many 
expressions that seem to be veiled foreshadowings 
of the Messiah. 

The most clearly messianic psalms are 
Psalm 2: The deity and universal reign of 

the Messiah 

Psalm 8: Through the Messiah, humanity is 

to rule creation 

Psalm 16: His resurrection from the dead 

Psalm 22: His suffering 

Psalm 45: His royal bride (the church) and 

his eternal throne 

Psalm 69: His suffering 

Psalm 72: The glory and eternity of His 


Psalm 89: God’s oath that Messiah’s throne 

will be without end 

Psalm 110: Eternal King and Priest 

Psalm 118: His rejection by His nation’s 


Psalm 132: Eternal heir to David’s throne 

Statements in the Psalms 
that in the New Testament 
are explicitly said to refer to 

• “You are my Son; today I have become 
your Father” (2:7; Acts 13:33). 

• “You put everything under his feet” (8:6; 
Hebrews 2:6-10). 

• “Because you will not abandon me to the 
grave, nor will you let your Holy One see 
decay” (16:10; Acts 2:27). 

• “My God, my God, why have you 

forsaken me?” (22:1; Matthew 27:46). 

• “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue 
him” (22:8; Matthew 27:43). 

• “They have pierced my hands and my 
feet” (22:16; John 20:25). 

• “They divide my garments among them 
and cast lots for my clothing” (22:18; 
John 19:24). 

• “Here I am, I have come ... to do your 
will, O my God” (40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7). 

• “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, 
he who shared my bread, has lifted up 
his heel against me” (41:9; John 13:18). 

• “Your throne, O God, will last for ever 
and ever” (45:6; Hebrews 1:8). 

• “Zeal for your house consumes me” 
(69:9; John 2:17). 

• “They put gall in my food and gave me 
vinegar for my thirst” (69:21; Matthew 
27:34, 48). 

• “May another take his place of 
leadership” (109:8; Acts 1:20). 

• “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my 
right hand until I make your enemies a 
footstool for your feet’ ” (110:1; Matthew 

• “The Lord has sworn and will not change 
his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the 
order of Melchizedek’ ” (110:4; Hebrews 

• “The stone the builders rejected has 
become the capstone” (118:22; Matthew 

• “Blessed is he who comes in the name of 
the Lord” (118:26; Matthew 21:9). 

See further under 2 Samuel 7 and Matthew 

2 : 22 . 

i i 

Book I: Psalms 1 to 41 


The book of Psalms opens with an exaltation of 
God’s Word. If David so loved the few writings 
that then constituted God’s Word, how much more 
should we love that same Word, which has now 
been brought to completion. (Other psalms of the 
Word are Psalm 19 and Psalm 119.) 

Blessed are those who derive their 
understanding of life from God’s Word rather than 
from their worldly neighbors. Happiness and 
prosperity are theirs; not so the wicked. Over and 
over the godly and the wicked are contrasted. 

Note, too, that the book of Psalms begins with 
a blessing or beatitude, like the Sermon on the 
Mount (Matthew 5:3-12). Its first word is 

Some of David’s “Beatitudes” in the Psalms: 

• “Blessed is the man . . . [whose] delight is in 
the law of the Lord” ( 1 : 1-2). 

• “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” 

( 2 : 12 ). 

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are 
forgiven” (32:1). 

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the 
Lord” (33:12). 

“Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” 

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak” 

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house” 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you” 

“Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord” 

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord” 

( 112 : 1 ). 

“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and 
seek him with all their heart” (119:2). 



This is the first of the messianic psalms (see 
Messianic Psalms in the chapter Psalms). It speaks 
of His deity (v. 7) and His universal reign (v. 8). 


Written at the time of Absalom’s rebellion (2 
Samuel 15). A most remarkable example of 
peaceful trust at a very trying time. David could 
sleep because “the Lord sustains me.” 


Another hymn of trust, as David prepared to sleep, 
so to speak, at the bosom of God. It speaks of trust 
in God (v. 5), gladness of heart (v. 7), peace of 
mind (v. 8), communion with God in our bedtime 
meditations (v. 4), confidence that God is watching 
(v. 8). 


Beset by treacherous enemies, David prays and 
shouts for joy, confident that God will protect him. 
David must have had many enemies. He refers to 
them again and again. Many of the most 
magnificent psalms came out of David’s troubles. 


In time of sickness, bitter grief, tears, humiliation, 
shame, and reproach by enemies, perhaps on 
account of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 
11). This is the first of the penitential psalms (see 
on Psalm 32). 



In grave danger, David protests his own 
righteousness (see on Psalm 32). Cush, in the title, 
possibly may have been one of Saul’s officers in 
pursuit of David (see on Psalm 54). 


Worldwide praise will be brought about under the 
Messiah, in the day of His triumphant reign 
(Hebrews 2:6-9). Jesus quoted verse 2 as 
referring to an incident in His own life (Matthew 


Victories over enemies, national and individual. 
God sits as King forever. Let the nations realize 
that they are only human, only creatures. Praise and 

trust God. 

This psalm, together with Psalm 10, forms an 
acrostic: the initial letters of successive verses 
follow the order of the Hebrew alphabet. It may 
have been used as an aid to memory. Other acrostic 
psalms are Psalms 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145. 


Prayer for help in the face of wickedness, 
oppression, and robbery, apparently within his 
own realm. Wickedness troubled David greatly, 
especially defiance of God. To David, as to other 
Bible writers, there are just two kinds of people: 
the righteous and the wicked — though many try to 
be both. 


The wicked walk on every side. David is 
overwhelmed by his wicked enemies, almost to the 
point of death. But he nevertheless trusts in God 
and sings for joy. Psalms such as these seem to 
belong to the period when David was hiding from 
Saul (1 Samuel 18-26). 


This psalm is almost the same as Psalm 53. It is 
quoted in Romans 3:10-12. Unbelievers are here 
called fools: widespread wickedness shows what 
fools people are. For as sure as there is a God, 
there will be a day of reckoning, a day of judgment 
for the wicked. But living among the wicked are 
God’s people, for whom Judgment Day will be a 
day of joy. 


The true citizens of Zion are righteous, truthful, 

just, and honest. Thomas Jefferson called this 
psalm “the picture of a true gentleman.” 


David appears to be speaking of himself, yet 
words about the coming Davidic King find their 
way into David’s mouth (v. 10) and are quoted in 
the New Testament as a prediction of Jesus’ 
resurrection (Acts 2:27). Verses 8 and 11 are 
especially magnificent. 


Overwhelmed by enemies, David looks to God. He 
proclaims his own innocence and trusts in God. 
Surrounded by people who love this world, David 
set his heart on the world beyond (vv. 14-15). 


David wrote this psalm after years of running from 
Saul, when he had become king and had the 
kingdom firmly established. He attributed it all to 
God, his Strength, Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, 
Support, Refuge, Shield, Horn, Stronghold. One of 
the best psalms. 

Head of nations (vv. 43-45) was only 
partially true of David; it looked forward beyond 
the time of David to the throne of David’s greater 
descendent, Christ, the Messiah. This psalm is 
repeated in 2 Samuel 22. 


The wonder and glory of creation, and the 
perfection and power of God’s Word. The God of 
nature is made known to humanity through His 
written Word. These thoughts about God’s Word 

are greatly expanded in Psalm 119. The closing 
prayer (vv. 13-14) is one of the best prayers in the 
whole Bible. God’s Word is perfect, sure, true; it 
gives joy and is sweeter than honey. 


This would appear to be a battle hymn, sung while 
setting up the military banners, with a prayer for 
victory as David entered battle. His trust was not 
in chariots and horses (v. 7), but in the Lord. 


Victory after the battle which had been prayed for 
in Psalm 20. It refers to David, but it seems also to 
contain a messianic hint in its reference to the 
eternal nature of the King’s reign (v. 4). 



This is a cry of anguish from David. But, though 
written 1000 years before the days of Jesus, it is so 
vivid a description of the crucifixion of Jesus that 
one would almost think that the writer was 
personally present at the cross: Jesus’ dying words 
(v. 1), the sneers of His enemies (vv. 7-8), His 
hands and feet pierced (v. 16), His garments 
divided (v. 18). Some of these statements are not 
applicable to David, nor to any known event in 
history except the crucifixion of Jesus. 


One of the best-loved chapters in the Old 
Testament. David may have composed this psalm 
while he was yet a shepherd boy, watching his 
father’s flocks on the very same field where, 1000 
years later, the angel choir announced the birth of 


This psalm may have been written when the ark of 
the covenant was brought to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 
6:12-15). Maybe we will sing it on that great day 
when the King of glory comes again. 


David had periods of depression, brought on by his 
sins and troubles. There are many petitions here 
that we would do well to make our own. Read this 
psalm often. 


This psalm is very different from the preceding 

one; David speaks positively and forcefully about 
his own integrity. (See on Psalm 32.) 


God was the strength of David’s life. David trusted 
God fearlessly. He loved to sing, and to pray, and 
to wait on the Lord. 

Ps. 28 A PRAYER 

A prayer, with thanksgiving for its being answered. 
David was without hope, except for God. He 
depended on Him and rejoiced in Him. 


The voice of God in the thunderstorm, sometimes 
frightening. The image is suggestive of the 

terrifying, cataclysmic events at the end of the 


Written after David had conquered Jerusalem and 
made it his capital (2 Samuel 5:11; 7:2). David 
had often been near death, but God brought him 
through. He would sing and praise God forever. 


David, in constant danger, trouble, grief, or 
humiliation, always implicitly trusted in God. 
Jesus quoted His dying words from this psalm (v. 
5; Luke 23:46). 


This psalm was occasioned, no doubt, by David’s 
sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). He can find 
no words to express his shame and humiliation. Yet 
this is the same David who repeatedly avowed his 
righteousness (Psalms 7:3, 8; 17:1-5; 18:20-24; 

How can we reconcile these paradoxical 
features of David’s life? (1) It is possible that the 
statements about his righteousness were made 
before David made this dreadful mistake. (2) In 
most things David was righteous. (3) Most 
important, there is a vast difference between a sin 
of weakness and willful, habitual sin. A good 
person may sin and yet be a good person. David’s 
remorse showed that was true in his case. That is 
quite different from wicked people who purposely, 
willfully, and habitually flout all the laws of 
decency. (See on 2 Samuel 1 1 .) 

Augustine is said to have had this psalm 
written on the wall in front of his bed, where it 
was always in view, reading it incessantly, 
weeping as he read. 

Other penitential psalms are Psalms 6, 25, 38, 

51, 102, 130, 143. 


David speaks of a “new song” (v. 3; the same 
words are found in Psalm 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9). 
There are old songs that will never grow old; but 
to God’s people, as they travel along life’s road, 
there are again and again new deliverances and 
new joys that put new meaning into old songs, all 
of which will be taken up into the great new 
outbursts of joy at the dawn of heaven’s glories 
(Revelation 5:9; 14:3). 


In every trouble David went straight to God in 
prayer, and after every deliverance he went 
instantly to God in thanks and praise. What a 

glorious thing to thus live in God. How that must 
please God. Someone has said, “Thank God for the 
starlight, and He will give you the moonlight; thank 
Him for the moonlight, and He will give you the 
sunlight; thank Him for the sunlight, and by and by 
He will take you where He Himself is the Light.” 


In this psalm David calls on God to act, to help 
him against his enemies. But God is silent and 
seems far away (vv. 22-23). What makes it even 
more difficult for David is that those who seek to 
kill him are his enemies without cause: they hate 
him without reason (v. 19). This was not an 
isolated experience (see Psalms 38:19; 69:4; 
109:3; 119:78, 86, 161; and Lamentations 3:52). 
Jesus applied the same thought to Himself in John 
15:25: “But this is to fulfill what is written in their 
Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ ” 

Pss. 36-37 TRUST IN GOD 

Psalm 36. The wickedness of people contrasted 
with the mercy and faithfulness of God. 

Psalm 37. This is one of the best-loved 
psalms. David, always puzzled by the fact that 
wickedness seems to prevail, here states his 
philosophy as to how to live among wicked 
people: do good, trust God, don’t worry. 


This is one of the penitential psalms (see on Psalm 
32). It seems that David was suffering from a 
loathsome disease, caused by his sin, which led 
even his closest friends and nearest relatives to 
stay away from him. His enemies, by contrast, had 
multiplied and become very bold. It shows how the 
“man after God’s own heart” sometimes went to 
the depths in sorrow and humiliation for his sin. 


Jeduthun (also mentioned in the titles of Psalms 62 
and 77) was one of David’s three music leaders; 
the other two were Asaph and Heman (1 
Chronicles 16:37-42). He was also the king’s seer, 
according to 2 Chronicles 35:15. 


The Law of God was in his heart (v. 8), yet David 
was utterly crushed by his sins (v. 12). The last 
part of this psalm is the same as Psalm 70. This 
psalm would seem to contain a messianic 
reference (vv. 7-8; see Hebrews 10:5-7). 



This psalm is thought to belong to the time when 
David’s son Absalom tried to usurp the throne (2 
Samuel 15) at a time when David’s sickness (vv. 
3-8) created an opportunity for the plot to mature. 
The close friend (v. 9) must have been Ahithophel, 
the Old Testament Judas (2 Samuel 15:12; John 

i l 

The Psalms of Vengeance 

There are seven psalms in which the psalmist 
hurls God’s curses on his enemies, in no 
uncertain terms (Psalms 6; 35; 59; 69; 83; 
109; 137). For example, 

May his days be few;. . . 

May his children be fatherless 
and his wife a widow. 

May his children be wandering beggars; 
may they be driven from their ruined 


May a creditor seize all he has; 
may strangers plunder the fruits of his 

May no one extend kindness to him 
or take pity on his fatherless children. 
May his descendants be cut off, 
their names blotted out from the next 

May the iniquity of his fathers be 
remembered before the Lord; 
may the sin of his mother never be 
blotted out. 

— Psalm 109:8-14 

These psalms are also called the imprecatory 
psalms because the psalmist showers 
imprecations (curses) on his enemies. 
Fourteen other psalms include an imprecatory 
prayer (for example, 3:7; 5:10; 7:14-16). The 
expression of hatred and the desire for 
vindication are also found in the prayers of 

Jeremiah (11:18-20; 15:15-18; 17:18; 18:19- 
23; 20:11-12) and Nehemiah (6:14; 13:29). 
What are we to do with these psalms that 
seem to squarely contradict Jesus’ command 
to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28)? Some 
people simply write them off. They feel that 
the Old Testament preaches law and 
vengeance, whereas the New Testament 
teaches love for God and neighbor. Therefore 
these psalms have no place in the Christian 

But they forget that Jesus took the two great 
commandments (“Love the Lord your God 
with all your heart and . . . soul and . . . 
mind . . . and . . . your neighbor as yourself,” 
Matthew 22:37-39) directly from the Old 
Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 
19:18). And His command to love our enemies 
is also found in the Old Testament: 

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; 

when he stumbles, do not let your heart 

rejoice. ... If your enemy is hungry, give 
him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him 
water to drink” (Proverbs 24:17; 25:21). 

And “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a 
tooth” (Exodus 21:24) is not, as is often 
assumed, a legalization of vengeance. Rather, 
it limits those who have been wronged to the 
recovery of actual damages rather than 
punitive damages. It is a humane law, 
designed to prevent an ever-escalating spiral 
of revenge. 

The Old Testament already contains the key 
teachings of Jesus — and the New Testament 
clearly does not teach only “sweetness and 
light.” Jesus condemned Korazin and 
Capernaum (Matthew 11:21-24) and severely 
criticized the leaders and the unbelief of the 
Jews (Matthew 7:23 [compare with Psalm 
6:8]; Mark 11:14; 12:9). The apostles also 
had very strong words for heretics and 
evildoers (1 Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 1:8-9; 

5:12; 2 Timothy 4:14 [compare with Psalm 
62:12]; 2 Peter 2; 2 John 7-11; Jude 3-16). 
The fact is that in both the Old and the New 
Testament we find the requirement to love as 
well as the requirement to hate evil. 

What bothers us about the imprecatory 
psalms is their concreteness. “God hates sin 
but loves the sinner” was as true in the Old 
Testament as it is now. But in the Old 
Testament, sin and evil are not viewed as 
abstractions; rather, they exist in their 
concrete manifestations — real actions by real 

In the Old Testament, God’s people, the 
nation of Israel, is a concrete reality. The 
nation lives in a specific place, the Promised 
Land. The temple is an actual place where 
God is present. And above all, the God of 
Israel is known through His concrete acts in 
history, foremost among them the Exodus 
from Egypt. And just as God’s presence is 

known through His concrete acts in history, so 
evil is known through its concrete 

In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask, “Deliver us from 
the evil one” (or, “from evil”). The psalmists 
make the same request, but in more concrete 
form: deliver us from evil by delivering us from 
the evil ones. In the New Testament, evil and 
sin oppose the coming of God’s kingdom. In 
the Old Testament, evil and sin oppose the 
kingdom of God’s people, Israel. But in both 
cases, sin and evil are an assault on God 
Himself by opposing that which is dearest to 
His heart. 

The imprecatory psalms are a constant 
reminder that evil is not an abstraction but a 
stark, everyday reality. They remind us that 
God hates evil, not in the abstract, but in 
people’s actions or failure to act — whether 
these are actions of unbelievers or of God’s 
own people. (Note how often the psalmists 

cry out for forgiveness for their own sins!) 

Book II: Psalms 42 to 72 

Pss. 42-43 THIRST FOR THE 

These two psalms form one poem, describing the 
desire for God’s house on the part of someone in 
exile in the Hermon region, east of the Jordan 
(42:6), among ungodly and hostile people. 

The Sons of Korah, mentioned in the titles of 
Psalms 42-49, 84, 85, 87, and 88, were a family of 
Levites, organized by David into a musical guild 
(1 Chronicles 6:31-48; 9:19, 22, 33). 


A cry of despair in a time of national disaster, 
when their army, it seems, had been 
overwhelmingly defeated. 


The psalmist shifts from speaking to the king to 
addressing God, who sits on an eternal throne. 
This psalm may, in part, have reference to David 
or Solomon. But some of its statements are wholly 
inapplicable to either, or to any other human 
sovereign. It surely seems to be a song of the 
Messiah, anticipating the marriage of the Lamb 
(Revelation 19:7). 


This psalm is the basis for Luther’s famous hymn 
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” the song of the 


Pss. 47-48 GOD REIGNS 

God is King. Zion is the city of God. This God is 
our God forever. God is on the throne — let the 
earth rejoice! 

Pss. 49-50 THE VANITY OF 

God is the owner of the earth and everything in and 
on it. In giving to God we merely return that which 
is His own. These psalms, which speak of the 
vanity of life, since death comes to all, are similar 
to Psalm 39. 


A penitential psalm (see on Psalm 32), written in 

the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 
Samuel 11-12). “Create in me a pure heart” (v. 10) 
is a prayer we all would do well to pray 


David’s trust in God is contrasted with the wicked 
boastfulness of his enemy Doeg (1 Samuel 21:7; 
22:9). David is co nf ident that he will be delivered. 


This psalm is similar to Psalm 14. It is quoted in 
Romans 3:10-12. The meaning of the terms 
mahalath and maskil in the title is not known, 
although they are most likely musical or literary 


Written when the Ziphites told Saul where David 
was hiding (1 Samuel 26). Other psalms composed 
while David was on the run from Saul are Psalm 
1 ( 1 ), 34, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 63(7), and 142. 


Like Psalm 4 1 , this seems to belong to the time of 
Absalom’s rebellion and to refer specifically to 
Ahithophel (vv. 12-14; 2 Samuel 15:12-13). It is a 
preview of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. David 
trusts in God. 


Like Psalm 34, a prayer for deliverance from the 
Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10-15). David used his 
own resources to the limit, even faking insanity. 

Yet he prayed and trusted in God for the result. 
Psalm 34 is his song of thanks for his escape. 


David’s prayer in the cave of Adullam, while 
hiding from Saul (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1; 26:1). His 
heart was fixed on trusting God (v. 7). 


The day of retribution is sure. David complained 
much about the prevalence of wickedness. And he 
repeated over and over that evil does not pay — in 
the long run. It is still so. 


David’s prayer when Saul sent soldiers to entrap 
David at home (1 Samuel 19:10-17). But again 
David trusted in God. Another golden poem. 

Ps. 60 A PSALM OF 

Written at a time when the war with the Syrians 
and Edomites (2 Samuel 8:3-14) was not going 
well. Other psalms in time of national reverses are 
Psalm 44, 74, 79, and 108. David’s prayer was 
answered (2 Samuel 8: 14). 

Ps. 61 A HYMN OF 

Prayed while David apparently was away from 
home on some distant expedition (v. 2), or possibly 
at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. 

Ps. 62 A POEM OF 

Devotion to God and unwavering trust in Him. 
David had a lot of trouble but never failed to trust 
in God. 


David’s thirst for God. It seems to belong to the 
period when David was in the wilderness of 
Engedi ( 1 Samuel 24), fleeing from Absalom, but 
confident of restoration. 


Prayer for protection from plots of secret enemies. 
David is confident that through God he will 



God crowns the year with goodness. The earth 
shouts for joy with its abundant crops. 


Praise God, fear God, sing, rejoice — God keeps 
His eye on the nations. 


In anticipation of the Good News of the Gospel 
encircling the earth. Let the nations sing for joy! 


The battle march of God’s victorious armies. This 
psalm has been the favorite of many in times of 


Like Psalm 22, this psalm provides glimpses of the 
suffering Messiah, ft is quoted in the New 
Testament (vv. 4, 9, 21-22, 25; John 2:17; 15:25; 
19:28-30; Acts 1:20; Romans 11:9; 15:3). 


God never failed David. The believer’s joy in God 
in a time of persecution. About the same as the 
latter part of Psalm 40. 


A retrospective on a life of trust, beset by troubles 
and enemies all the way, but with his joy in God 


This is one of Solomon’s psalms (the other one is 
Psalm 127). Solomon’s kingdom was at the 
pinnacle of its glory. We may think that this psalm 
was, in part, a description of his own peaceful and 
glorious reign. But some of its statements, and its 
general tenor, can allude only to the kingdom of 
One greater than Solomon. (See further Poetic 
Books fJob-Song of Songs') in the chapter The 
Messiah in the Old Testament: Foreshadowings 
and Predictions of the Coming Messiah.) 

Book III: Psalms 73 to 89 


The solution to the problem of the prosperity of 
wicked people is this: consider their final end. 
This is one of Asaph’s psalms (the others are 50, 
74-83). Asaph was David’s song leader (1 
Chronicles 15:16-20; 16:5). Hezekiah’s choirs 
sang Asaph’s psalms (2 Chronicles 29:30). 


Jerusalem was in ruins (vv. 3, 6-7). This psalm 
may refer either to the time of Shishak’s invasion 
( 1 Kings 14:25) or to the Babylonian captivity. 


The certain destruction of the wicked and the 
certain triumph of the righteous on the day when 
the earth shall be dissolved. 


This psalm seems to refer to the destruction of 
Sennacherib’s army by the Angel of God at 
Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35). 

Pss. 77-78 HISTORICAL 

A review of God’s marvelous works in His 
dealings with Israel. The contrast between God’s 
mighty works and Israel’s habitual unfaithfulness 
and disobedience. 

Pss. 79-80 NATIONAL 

Like Psalm 74, these psalms belong to a time of 
great disaster, such as the invasion of Shishak (1 
Kings 4:25), or the fall of the northern kingdom, or 
the Babylonian captivity. 

Pss. 81-82 ISRAEL’S 

The cause of Israel’s troubles lies in their turning 
their back on God. If they had only listened to God, 
things would have been different. Unjust judges 
must share in the blame, since they have forgotten 
their responsibility to the supreme Judge. 


Prayer for protection from a conspiracy of 
federated nations: Edomites, Arabians, Moabites, 
Ammonites, Amalekites, Philistines, and others. 


The blessedness of devotion to God’s house. 
“Better is one day in your courts [the temple 
courts] than a thousand elsewhere” (v. 10). 
Nearness to God is what matters — also for the 


Thanksgiving for return from captivity, and a 
prayer for the restoration of the land and for a 
better future, ft is also a prayer for mercy: even 
though the psalmist is godly, yet he is in need of 

Ps. 87 ZION 

God’s love for Zion. What is said here of Zion 
more truly applies to the church. Our birth in Zion 
(our birth into God’s people) is recorded in heaven 
(v. 6). 


Prayer of a shut-in suffering from a prolonged and 
terrible disease. One of the saddest of the psalms. 

Ps. 89 GOD’S OATH 

God’s solemn promise that David’s throne will be 
forever. A magnificent psalm. Ethan, in the title, 
was one of David’s song leaders (1 Chronicles 

Book IV: Psalms 90 to 106 


The eternity of God and the shortness of human 
life. Since this is a psalm of Moses, who lived 400 
years before David, it may have been the first 
psalm to be written. Moses wrote other songs 
(Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32). Rabbinic tradition 
assigns the 10 psalms that follow, 91-100, also to 


One of the best-loved psalms. Magnificent! 
Amazing promises of security to those who trust 
God. Read it often. 



This hymn seems to look back to the Sabbath (the 
seventh day) of Creation, and forward to the age of 
the eternal Sabbath. The wicked will perish, the 
godly flourish. 

Pss. 93-94 THE MAJESTY OF 

God’s majesty and the destruction of the wicked. 
The power, holiness, and eternity of God’s throne. 
From everlasting, God reigns forevermore. 
Wickedness is prevalent in this world, but in the 
end, God’s justice prevails: the doom of the 
wicked is certain. This is one of the most frequent 
themes of Scripture. 

Pss. 95-97 THE REIGN OF GOD 

Continuing the idea of Psalm 93, these are called 

“theocratic psalms” because they relate to the 
sovereignty and rule of God (theocracy = “rule by 
God”; compare democracy, “rule by the people”), 
with hints of the kingly reign of the corning 

Psalm 95. Sing! Rejoice! God is King; let us 
kneel before Him. We are His people; let us listen 
to His voice. Verses 7-11 are quoted in Hebrews 
3:7-11 as words of the Holy Spirit. 

Psalm 96. Sing! Be joyful. Be thankful. Praise 
God. It will be a day of triumph for God’s people 
when He comes to judge the world. Let the 
heavens be glad and the earth rejoice. The Day of 
Judgment is on the way. 

Psalm 97. The Lord comes. The earth is 
moved. A coronation anthem that refers, possibly, 
to both the first and the second comings of Christ. 


Since this is a new song (v. 1), it may be one of 

those sung in heaven (Revelation 5:9-14). (See 
also under Psalm 33.) 

Pss. 99-100 GOD REIGNS— 

Psalm 99. God reigns. God is holy, let the nations 
tremble. God loves justice and righteousness. He 
answers prayer. 

Psalm 100. Praise God. His love endures 
forever, and His faithfulness through all 


This may have been written when David ascended 
the throne. It states the principles on which he 
would base his reign. 

Ps. 102 A PRAYER OF 

Written in a time of terrible affliction, humiliation, 
and reproach (see on Psalm 32). The eternity of 
God (vv. 25-27) is quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12 as 
applying to Christ. 


Thought to have been written in David’s old age, 
this psalm summarizes God’s dealings with him. 
One of the best-loved psalms. 


God the Creator and caretaker of all the world. 
This psalm reminds us of Jesus’ words, “Are not 
two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of 
them will fall to the ground apart from the will of 

your Father” (Matthew 10:29). 

i l 

Pss. 105-106 TWO HISTORICAL 

A poetic summary of Israel’s history that focuses 
especially on their miraculous delivery out of 

Book V: Psalms 107 to 150 

Pss. 107-109 GOD’S UNFAILING 

Psalm 107. The wonders of God’s love in His 
dealings with His people and in His management 
of the works of nature. 

Psalm 108. This seems to be one of David’s 
battle songs. It is almost identical with parts of 

Psalms 57 and 60. 

Psalm 109. Vengeance on God’s adversaries. 
One of the cursing psalms (see on Psalm 35). In the 
New Testament, verse 8 is applied to Judas, who 
betrayed Jesus. 


This psalm cannot refer to any person in history 
except Christ; yet it was written 1000 years before 
Christ (vv. 1,4). Quoted in the New Testament as 
referring to Christ (Matthew 22:44; Acts 2:34; 
Hebrews 1:13; 5:6). 

Pss. 111-112 SONGS OF PRAISE 

Psalm 111. The majesty, honor, righteousness, 
unfailing love, justice, faithfulness, truth, holiness, 
and eternity of God. 

Psalm 112. The blessedness of those who fear 

God and are righteous, merciful, gracious, and kind 
to the poor, who love the ways and Word of God, 
and whose heart is fixed on God. Everlasting 
blessedness is theirs. 

Pss. 113-118 THE HALLEL 

“Hallel” means praise. The Hallel psalms were 
sung in families on the night of the Passover: 
Psalms 113 and 114 at the beginning of the meal, 
Psalms 115-118 at the close of the meal. They 
must have been the hymns that Jesus and His 
disciples sang at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:30). 

Psalm 113. A song of praise. Begins and ends 
with “Hallelujah,” which means “praise God.” 
Psalm 114. A song of the Exodus, recalling the 
wonders and miracles of Israel’s deliverance out 
of Egypt and the beginning of the Passover feast. 
The earth, sea, rivers, mountains, and hills 
trembled at God’s presence. 

Psalm 115. The Lord is the only God. Blessed 

are His people, they who trust in Him and not in 
the gods of the nations. Idols are no smarter than 
they who make them. Our God is God — where are 
the gods of the nations? Our God will bless us, and 
we will bless His name forevermore. 

Psalm 116. A song of gratitude to God for 
deliverance from death and temptation, and for 
repeated answers to prayer. One of the best 

Psalm 117. A summons to the nations to accept 
the Lord. Quoted as such in Romans 15:11. This is 
the middle chapter in the Bible — and the shortest. 
Yet it contains the essence of the Psalms. 

Psalm 118. This was the farewell hymn Jesus 
sang with His disciples as He left the Passover on 
His way to Gethsemane and Calvary (Matthew 
26:30). It embodied a prediction of His rejection 
(vv. 22, 26; Matthew 21:9, 42). 


With 176 verses, this is the longest chapter in the 
Bible. Every verse mentions the Word of God 
under one or another of these names: law, statutes, 
righteous laws, decrees, commands, precepts, 
word, ways (Kjy also testimony, ordinances), 
except vv. 90, 121, 122, 132. 

It is an acrostic, or alphabetic, psalm. Its has 
22 stanzas, each beginning with a letter of the 
Hebrew alphabet, in sequence. What is more, each 
stanza has eight lines, and each of the eight lines in 
a stanza begins with the same letter (see on Psalm 


Pss. 120-134 SONGS OF 

Also called songs of degrees, or pilgrim songs. 
Believed to have been designed to be sung a 
capella by pilgrims traveling up to the religious 
feasts at Jerusalem. The roads that led to Jerusalem 
from all directions went literally uphill (see 

Topography in the chapter The Setting of the 
Bible), hence “going up to Jerusalem” and songs of 
“ascent.” Or they may have been sung going up the 
15 steps to the men’s court in the temple. 

Psalm 120. A prayer for protection by one who 
lived among deceitful and treacherous people, far 
away from Zion. 

Psalm 121. Pilgrims may have sung this hymn 
as they first caught sight of the mountains 
surrounding Jerusalem 

Psalm 122. This may have been what the 
pilgrims sang as they neared the temple gate within 
the city walls. 

Psalm 123. And this may have been sung 
inside the temple courts as the pilgrims lifted their 
eyes to God in prayer for His mercy. 

Psalm 124. A hymn of thanksgiving and praise 
for repeated national deliverance in times of 
fearful danger. 

Psalm 125. A hymn of trust. As the mountains 
are round about Jerusalem, so God is round about 
His people. 

Psalm 126. A song of thanksgiving for return 

from captivity. The people felt as if they were 
dreaming. (See Psalm 137.) 

Psalm 127. This seems like a combination of 
two poems, one about temple building, the other 
about family building. This is one of Solomon’s 
two psalms (the other is Psalm 72). 

Psalm 128. A wedding song. A continuation of 
the second half of Psalm 127. Godly families are 
the basis of national prosperity. 

Psalm 129. Israel’s prayer for the overthrow of 
her enemies, who, generation after generation, had 
harassed her. 

Psalm 130. Keeping our eyes on God. A cry 
for mercy. This is one of the penitential psalms. 
(See on Psalm 32.) 

Psalm 131. A psalm of humble, childlike trust 
in God. The psalmist’s soul is stilled and quieted, 
as a child with his mother. 

Psalm 132. A poetic restatement of God’s 
unbreakable promise to David of an eternal 

Psalms 133-134. A psalm of brotherly love 
and of life forevermore, and a psalm about those 

Levites who “work the night shift” in the temple. 

The snow-capped peak of Mount Hermon. Moisture in any 
form is a blessing in a dry climate: “It is as if the dew of 
Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord 
bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133:3). 

Pss. 135-139 PSALMS OF 

Psalm 135. A song of praise for God’s wonderful 
works in nature and in history. 

Psalm 136. This seems to be an expansion of 
Psalm 135, about God’s mighty works of creation 
and His dealings with Israel, arranged for 
antiphonal singing. “His love endures forever” 
occurs in every verse. It is called a Hallel (praise) 
psalm, was sung at the opening of the Passover, 
and was a favorite temple song (1 Chronicles 
16:41; 2 Chronicles 7:3; 20:21; Ezra 3:11). 

Psalm 137. A psalm of the captivity, sung by 
exiles in a foreign land longing for home. They 
expect sure retribution for those who took them 
captive. This is not a psalm of thanksgiving, but its 
counterpart, Psalm 126, written after they got back 
from Babylon, is full of gratitude. 

Psalm 138. A song of thanksgiving, apparently 
on the occasion of some notable answer to prayer. 

Psalm 139. God’s universal presence and 
infinite knowledge. He knows our every thought, 
word, and act — nothing is hidden from Him. The 
closing sentence is one of the most needed prayers 
in the whole Bible. 

I I 

Pss. 140-143 PRAYERS FOR 

Psalm 140. David had many enemies — who drove 
him ever closer to God. The ultimate destruction of 
the wicked. 

Psalm 141. Another one of David’s prayers for 
protection against being driven to sin. 

Psalm 142. One of David’s prayers in early 
life, while hiding in a cave from Saul (1 Samuel 
22:1; 24:3). 

Psalm 143. David’s penitent cry for help and 
guidance, possibly when he was being pursued by 
Absalom (2 Samuel 17, 18). 

Pss. 144-145 SONGS OF 

Psalm 144. One of David’s battle songs. His army 

may have chanted hymns such as this as they 
moved into battle. 

Psalm 145. David may have had his army sing 
a hymn such as this after a battle, in gratitude for 

Pss. 146-150 HALLELUJAH 

These last five psalms are called Hallelujah 
psalms, since each begins and ends with 
“Hallelujah,” which means “praise the Lord.” The 
word also appears often in other psalms. 

The grand outburst of Hallelujahs with which 
the book of Psalms comes to a climactic close is 
carried over to the end of the Bible itself and is 
echoed in the heavenly choirs of the redeemed 
(Revelation 19:1, 3-4, 6). 

Psalm 146. God reigns. As long as I live I will 
praise God. 

Psalm 147. Let all creation praise God. Sing 
unto God with thanksgiving. Let Israel and Zion 

praise God. 

Psalm 148. Let the angels praise God. Let the 
sun, moon, and stars praise God. Let the heavens 
shout, “Hallelujah!” 

Psalm 149. Let the saints praise God. Let them 
sing for joy. Let Zion rejoice. Hallelujah! 

Psalm 150. Hallelujah! Praise God with 
trumpet and harp. Let everything that has breath 
praise God. Hallelujah! 


Wise Sayings about the Practical Affairs of 
Everyday Life 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways acknowledge him, 
and he will make your paths straight. 

Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the Lord and shun evil. 

— Proverbs 3:5-7 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning oj 

and knowledge of the Holy One is 
understanding. ” 

Proverbs 9:10 

Like the book of Psalms and the Pentateuch, this 
book is divided into five parts: the way of 
Wisdom, by Solomon (chaps. 1-9); the main 
collection of the proverbs of Solomon (chaps. 10- 
24); Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs 
(chaps. 25-29); the words of Agur (chap. 30); the 
words of King Lemuel (chap. 31). 

Thus, most of the proverbs are ascribed to 
Solomon. Solomon appears to be to the book of 
Proverbs what David is to the book of Psalms: the 
main author. The difference is that Psalms is a 
book of devotion, while Proverbs is a book of 
practical ethics. 


As a young man, Solomon had a consuming passion 
for knowledge and wisdom (1 Kings 3:9-12). He 
became the literary prodigy of the world of his 
day. His intellectual attainments were the wonder 
of the age. Kings came from the ends of the earth to 
hear him. He lectured on botany and zoology. He 
was a scientist, a political ruler, a businessman 

with vast enterprises, a poet, moralist, and 
preacher. (See on 1 Kings 4 and 9.) 

What Is a Proverb? 

A proverb is a brief, popular statement that 
expresses a general truth (“A stitch in time saves 
nine”). Most of the book consists of unconnected 
proverbs. But the Hebrew word for “proverb” can 
also include longer, connected exhortations, such 
as chapter 2. Most of the proverbs in the book of 
Proverbs express a contrast (“Many are the plans 
in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that 
prevails,” 19:21) or a statement with an 
elaboration or consequence (“Listen to advice and 
accept instruction, and in the end you will be 
wise,” 19:20). Many proverbs use figurative 
language (“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, 
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones,” 16:24). 

Proverbs are designed primarily for teaching, 
especially the young — compact, practical 
statements that stick in the mind. They cover a 
wide range of subjects: wisdom, righteousness, 
fear of God, knowledge, morality, chastity, 

diligence, self-control, trust in God, proper use of 
riches, consideration for the poor, control of the 
tongue, kindness toward enemies, choice of 
companions, training of children, honesty, idleness, 
laziness, justice, helpfulness, cheerfulness, 
common sense, and more. 

Proverbs and Experience 

This book aims to inculcate virtues that the Bible 
insists on throughout. Over and over and over, in 
all the Bible, God has supplied us with a great 
abundance of instruction as to how He wants us to 
live, so that there can be no excuse for our missing 
the mark. 

The teachings of this book of Proverbs are not 
expressed with the words “This is what the Lord 
says,” as in the Law of Moses, where the same 
things are taught as a direct command of God. 
Rather, they are given as coming out of the 
experience of a man who tried out and tested just 
about everything that people are involved in. 
Moses had said, “These things are the 
commandments of God.” Solomon here says, 

“Experience shows that God has commanded us 
those things that are best for us — the essence of 
human wisdom lies in keeping God’s 
commandments.” Proverbs are like an owner’s 
manual for life. An owner’s manual explains what 
needs to be done to avoid serious problems, but it 
does not guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong. 

God, in the long record of His revelation of 
Himself and His will, resorted, it seems, to every 
possible method to convince us — not only by 
commandment and by precept, but also by example 
— that God’s commandments are worth living by. 

Solomon’s fame was a sounding board that 
carried his voice to the ends of the earth and made 
him an example to all the world of the wisdom of 
God’s ideas. 

This book of Proverbs has been called one of 
the best guidebooks to success that a young person 
can follow. 

There is also an incidental element of humor in 
the book of Proverbs, especially in the images 
some of the proverbs evoke: “Even a fool is 
thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he 

holds his tongue” (17:28). “Better to live on a 
corner of the roof than share a house with a 
quarrelsome wife” (21:9). There is also a 
delightful description of the effects of too much 
alcohol (23:31-35). 


Chapter 1. The Object of the Book. To promote 
wisdom, discipline, understanding, righteousness, 
justice, equity, prudence, knowledge, discretion, 
learning, guidance (vv. 2-7). What splendid 
words! Wisdom (found 41 times in the book) is 
more than knowledge and insight; it includes skill 
in living a morally sound life. It can also include 
skill at a craft (in Exodus 31:3, for example, 
“skill” is the same word as “wisdom”). 

The starting point is the fear of God (v. 7); 
next, paying attention to parental instruction (vv. 8- 
9) and avoiding bad companions (vv. 10-19). 
Wisdom cries aloud her warnings, but if these 

warnings are ignored, the consequences are dire 
indeed (vv. 20-33). 

Chapter 2. Wisdom must be sought 
wholeheartedly. The place to find it is God’s Word 
(v. 6). Then follows a warning against the 
adulteress (KJV strange woman), a warning that is 
often repeated. While wisdom is personified in 
Proverbs as a pure and morally beautiful woman, 
the adulteress is the opposite of wisdom — she is 
folly personified. 

Chapter 3. A superb and beautiful chapter: 
kindness, truth, long life, peace, trust in God, 
honoring God with our material possessions, 
prosperity, security, happiness, blessedness. 

Chapter 4. Wisdom is “the principal thing” — 
it is supreme (NTV). Therefore, get wisdom! The 
path of the righteous grows brighter and brighter, 
while the path of the wicked will grow darker and 

Chapter 5. Marital joy and loyalty. A warning 
against unchaste love. Solomon had many women, 
but advised against it. He seemed to think the one- 
wife arrangement better (vv. 18-19). Chapters 5-7 

speak about loose women. Judging from the space 
Solomon devotes to them, there must have been a 
good many such women then (Ecclesiastes 7:28). 
In the background is always the imagery of God- 
given wisdom that leads to moral living 
(personified in the wife of one’s youth) and the 
pursuit of folly that leads to disaster (personified 
in the adulteress). 

Chapter 6. Warnings against questionable 
business obligations, laziness, cunning hypocrisy, 
haughtiness, lying, trouble-making, disregard of 
parents, illegitimate love. 

Chapter 7. Warning against the adulteress 
whose husband is away from home. Again, an 
indirect warning against folly and the betrayal of 

Chapters 8-9. Wisdom, personified as a 
woman, inviting everyone to share in the bounty of 
her banquet, in contrast to lustful women who call 
out to the simple, “Stolen water is sweet; food 
eaten in secret is delicious!” (9:13-18). 

Prov. 10-24 THE PROVERBS OF 

Chapter 10. Terse contrasts between wise men 
and fools, righteous and wicked, diligent and lazy, 
rich and poor. 

Chapter 11. Dishonest business practices 
(Kjy a false balance; NIY dishonest scales) are 
an abomination to God. A beautiful woman without 
discretion is like a jewel in a swine’s snout. A 
generous person will prosper. 

Chapter 12. A worthy woman is the glory of 
her husband. Lying lips are an abomination to God. 
The diligent will receive precious blessings. No 
harm befalls the righteous. 

Plowing: “From the strength of an ox comes an abundant 
harvest” (Proverbs 14:4), but “a sluggard does not plow in 
season, so at harvest he looks but finds nothing” (20:4). 

Chapter 13. He who guards his mouth guards 
his life. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. The 
way of the transgressor is hard. Walk with wise 
men, and you will be wise. 

Better a little with the fear of the Lord 
than great wealth with turmoil. 

— Proverbs 15:16 

Chapter 14. He who has a short temper will 
do foolish things. He who is slow to anger is a 
person of great understanding. Fear of God is a 
fountain of life. Tranquility of heart gives life to 
the body. He who oppresses the poor shows 
contempt for their Maker. 

Chapter 15. A soft answer turns away anger. A 
gentle tongue is a tree of life. The prayer of the 
upright is God’s delight. A wise son brings joy to 
his father. 

Chapter 16. People make plans, but God 
directs their steps. Pride comes before destruction. 
Gray hair is a crown of splendor — it is attained in 
a life of righteousness. 

Chapter 17. To have a fool for a son brings 
grief. A cheerful heart is a good medicine. Even a 
fool, when he keeps his mouth shut, is considered 

Chapter 18. A fool’s mouth is his destruction. 
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. 
Before honor goes humility. He who finds a wife 

finds a good thing. 

Chapter 19. A prudent wife is from God. He 
who has pity on the poor lends to God — God will 
repay him. Many are the plans in people’s hearts, 
but God’s purpose prevails. 

Chapter 20. Wine is a mocker. It is an honor 
for a man to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to 
quarrel. Lips that speak knowledge are a rare 
jewel. Diverse weights and dishonest scales are an 
abomination to God. 

Chapter 21. It is better to live on a corner of 
the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome 
wife. Whoever shuts his ear to the cry of the poor 
will not be heard when he cries out. Whoever 
guards his tongue keeps his soul from trouble. The 
horse is prepared for battle, but the victory is of 

Chapter 22. A good name is to be preferred 
over great riches. Train a child in the way he 
should go, and when he is old he will not turn from 
it. A generous man will be blessed. See a man 
skilled in his work? He shall serve before kings. 

Chapter 23. Do not wear yourself out to get 

rich. Listen to your father and mother; let them 
rejoice in you when they are old. Do not withhold 
discipline from a child. Listen to your father, who 
gave you life, and do not despise your mother 
when she is old. A rather humorous description of 
the effects of too much drink (vv. 29-35). 

If your enemy is hungry give him food to 
eat; if he is thirsty give him water to 

— Proverbs 25:21 

Chapter 24. In a multitude of counselors is 
safety. 1 went by the field of a lazy person; it was 
overgrown with thorns. An honest answer is like a 
kiss on the lips. A little sleep, a little slumber, and 
poverty will come on you like a bandit. 

Prov. 25-29 THE PROVERBS OF 


This group of Solomon’s proverbs (chaps. 25-29) 
is here said to have been copied by men of King 
Hezekiah (25:1). Hezekiah lived more than 200 
years after Solomon. Solomon’s manuscript may 
have been worn out, and a basic item in Hezekiah’s 
reform movement was a renewed interest in God’s 
Word (2 Kings 18). 

Chapter 25. A word fitly spoken is like apples 
of gold in baskets of silver. If your enemy hungers, 
feed him; if he thirsts, give him something to drink; 
and God will reward you (see Luke 6:35). 

Chapter 26. See a man wise in his own 
conceit? There is more hope for a fool than for 
him. A lying tongue hates those whom it has 

Coneys, one of four creatures described in Proverbs 30:24-28 
as “small, yet . . . extremely wise.” 

Chapter 27. Do not boast about tomorrow, for 
you know not what a day may bring forth (see 
Matthew 6:34). More proverbs about fools. 

Chapters 28-29. He who hides his eyes from 
the poor shall have many a curse. A fool vents all 
his anger, but a wise man keeps it back and stills it. 
Further dissertations on fools. 


It is not known who Agur was — perhaps a friend 
of Solomon. Solomon liked his proverbs so well 
that he thought it worthwhile to include them in his 
own book. 


A mother’s counsel to a king. Lemuel may have 
been another name for Solomon. If so, then 
Bathsheba was the mother who taught him this 
beautiful poem. 

Few mothers have raised finer boys. As a 
young man, Solomon’s character was as splendid 
as any in history. In his old age, however, he did 
depart from what he had been taught — contrary to 
his own proverb (22:6). The chapter is about 
mothers rather than kings. 

The book of Proverbs ends with a superb 
acrostic poem in praise of the wife of noble 
character: “A wife of noble character who can 

find? She is worth far more than rubies.” 


The Meaninglessness of Earthly Life 

“Meaningless! Meaningless! ” 
says the Teacher. 

‘ ‘Utterly meani ngl ess ! 

Everything is meaningless. ” 

— Ecclesiastes 1:2 

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity 
of vanities; all is vanity. 

— Ecclesiastes 1:2 Ig v 

Solomon, the author of this book, was in his day 
the most famous and most powerful king in the 
world, noted for his wisdom, riches, and literary 
attainments (see on 1 Kings 4 and 9). 

Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything Is 

This is the theme of the book. It also embodies an 
attempt to give a philosophic answer as to how 
best to live in a world where everything appears to 
be meaningless. The book contains many things of 
superb beauty and transcendent wisdom. But it is 
radically different from the Psalms: its 

predominant mood is one of unutterable 


David, Solomon’s father, in his long and hard 
struggle to build the kingdom, was forever 
shouting, “Rejoice,” “Shout for joy,” “Sing,” 
“Praise God.” Solomon, sitting in peaceful security 
on the throne David had built, with honor, 
splendor, power, and living in almost fabled 
luxury, was the one man in all the world whom 
people would have thought to be happy. Yet his 
unceasing refrain was, “Everything is 

meaningless.” And the book, a product of 
Solomon’s old age, leaves us with the distinct 
impression that Solomon was not a happy man. The 

word “meaningless” occurs 37 times! 


Eternity (3:11) is a more correct translation than 
“world” (KJV) and may suggest the key thought of 
the book: “Eternity in people’s hearts.” In the 
inmost depths of our nature we have a longing for 
things eternal. But back then, God had not yet 
revealed very much about things eternal. 

In various places in the Old Testament there 
are hints and glimpses of the future life, and 
Solomon seems to have had some vague ideas 
about it. But it was Christ who brought life and 
immortality to light (2 Timothy 1:10). Christ, by 
His resurrection from the dead, gave the world a 
concrete demonstration of the certainty of life 
beyond the grave. And Solomon, who lived almost 
1000 years before Christ, could not possibly have 
the same feeling of sureness about the life beyond 
that Christ later gave the world. 

There is a time for everything, and a 

season for every activity under heaven. 

— Ecclesiastes 3:1 

But Solomon saw earthly life at its best. Not a 
whim but he was able to gratify it. He seems to 
have made it his chief business in life to see how 
good a time he could have. And this book, the 
result of Solomon’s experience, has running 
through it a note of unspeakable pathos: All is 
“vanity and vexation of spirit” (KJV) or, as we 
would say, All is meaningless and a chasing after 
wind (NIV). 

How Can Such a Book Be God’s Word? 

God stands behind the writing of this book. Not all 
of Solomon’s ideas were God’s ideas (see note on 
1 Kings 11). But the general, self-evident lessons 
of the book are from God. God gave Solomon 
wisdom and unparalleled opportunity to observe 
and explore every avenue of earthly life. And after 
much research and experiment, Solomon concluded 
that on the whole, humanity found little solid 

happiness in life, and in his own heart he found an 
unutterable yearning for something beyond himself 
Thus the book, in a way, is humanity’s cry for a 

The misnamed Colossae of Memnon — they are actually 
statues of Pharaoh Amenophis III of Egypt — stand forlornly in 
the plain, guarding nothing. The temple that once stood behind 
them is long gone: an apt illustration of the ultimate 
meaninglessness of power and glory. 

Now all has been heard; 

here is the conclusion of the matter: 
Fear God and keep his commandments, 
for this is the whole duty of man. 

— Ecclesiastes 12:13 

With the coming of Christ, the cry was 
answered. The vanity of life disappeared. Life is 
no longer meaningless but full of joy and peace. 
Jesus never used the word “meaningless.” But He 
talked much of His joy, even under the shadow of 
the Cross. “Joy” is one of the key words of the 
New Testament. In Christ, humanity found the 
desire of the ages: life — full, abundant, joyous, 
glorious life. 

Eccl. 1-4 ALL IS VANITY 

In a world where everything passes away and fails 
to satisfy, Solomon set himself to answer the 
question. What is the solution to the problem of life 
in such a world? The world is one of unending 

monotony. Solomon felt the meaninglessness of life 
and the emptiness and uselessness of his own vast 
works. Even wisdom, which Solomon sought so 
diligently and prized so highly, was disappointing. 
The pursuits and pleasures of humanity in general 
seemed to him to be merely a chasing after wind. 
And it was all made worse by the wickedness and 
cruelties of men. 


Solomon’s favorite form of literature was 
proverbs. In these chapters he intersperses 
proverbs with various observations relating to the 
general theme of the book. In 7:27-28 there may be 
an oblique reference to Solomon’s experience with 
his 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1- 
11). One would guess, from 7:26-28, that he had 
had some difficulty in holding the faithless women 
of his court in line. 

Eccl. 11-12 SOLOMON’S 

Solomon’s answer to his question. What is it that 
we can do in a world where all is meaningless? is 
scattered throughout the book and is summed up at 
the close: eat, drink, rejoice, do good, live joyfully 
with your wife, do with full commitment what your 
hands find to do, and above all, fear God, keeping 
your eyes on the day of final judgment. With all his 
complaints about the nature of creation, Solomon 
had no doubt as to the existence and justice of the 
Creator. God is mentioned at least 40 times in this 
book — more frequently than vanity or 

meaningless/meaninglessness ! 

Song of Songs 

i i 

In Praise of Married Love 

“See! The winter is past; 
the rains are over and gone. 

Flowers appear on the earth; 
the season of singing has come, 
the cooing of doves 
is heard in our land. 

The fig tree forms its early fruit; 
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. 
Arise, come, my darling; 
my beautiful one, come with me. ’’ 

— Song of Songs 2:11-13 

The Song of Songs is a love song, set in 
blossoming springtime, full of metaphors and a 

profusion of oriental imagery that shows 
Solomon’s fondness for nature, gardens, meadows, 
vineyards, orchards, and flocks (1 Kings 4:33). 

It is called the Song of Songs, possibly 
indicating that Solomon considered it the most 
marvelous of the 1,005 songs he wrote (1 Kings 
4:32). Some think that it was written to celebrate 
marriage to his favorite wife. 

A Poem 

Scholars familiar with the structure of Hebrew 
poetry consider this book to be a superb 
composition. (On Hebrew poetry, see Poetry in the 
chapter on Poetry and Wisdom: Job-Song of 
Songs.) But its sudden transitions from one speaker 
to another, and from place to place, with no 
explanation of its shifting scenes and actors, makes 
it difficult to follow. In Hebrew the change of 
speakers is indicated by gender; in some Bibles, 
by extra space. 

The Speakers 

It seems clear that the speakers are 

• The bride, called the Shulammite (6:13) 

• The king 

• A chorus of palace women called “daughters 
of Jerusalem” 

Solomon’s harem at this point was still 
relatively small — only 60 wives and 80 
concubines, with innumerable virgins on the 
waiting list (6:8). Later it grew to include 700 
wives and 300 concubines (see note on 1 Kings 

The Bride 

A common opinion, and probably the best, is that 
the Shulammite was Abishag of Shunem, the most 
beautiful woman in all the land, who attended 
David in his last days ( 1 Kings 1 : 1-4) and who, no 
doubt, became Solomon’s wife, for her marriage to 
another might have endangered his throne ( 1 Kings 


On the face of it, the poem is a song of praise to the 

joys of married life. Its essence is to be found in its 
tender and devoted expressions of the intimate 
delights of married love. Even if it is no more than 
that, it is worthy of a place in God’s Word, for 
marriage was ordained of God (Genesis 2:24). 
And human happiness and welfare depend to a 
very large extent on proper mutual attitudes in the 
intimate relationship of married life. 

However, both Jews and Christians have seen 
deeper meanings in this poem. Jews read it at 
Passover as an allegory referring to the Exodus, 
when God took Israel to Himself as His bride. His 
love for Israel then is here exemplified in the 
spontaneous love of a great king for a humble 
young woman. In the Old Testament, Israel is 
called God’s wife (Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16, 23). 

Christians have usually regarded it as a song of 
Christ and the church. In the New Testament the 
church is called the bride of Christ (Matthew 9:15; 
25:1; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 
5:23; Revelation 19:7; 21:2; 22:17). In this view, 
human marriage is a counterpart to and foretaste of 
the relationship between Christ and His church. 

How could a man with a harem of 1000 women 
have a love for any one of them that would be fit to 

be a portrayal of Christ’s love for the church? A 
number of Old Testament saints were polygamists. 
Even though God’s Law was against it from the 
beginning, as Christ so plainly stated, in Old 
Testament times God nevertheless seems to have 
accommodated Himself, in measure, to prevailing 
customs. Kings generally had many wives. It was 
one of the prerogatives and status symbols of 
royalty. And Solomon’s devotion to this lovely girl 
seems to be genuine and unmistakable. Also, he 
was a king in the family that was to produce the 
Messiah. And it seems not unfitting that his 
marriage should, in a sense, prefigure the 
Messiah’s eternal marriage to His bride. The joys 
of this song, we think, will find their zenith in the 
hallelujahs of the Lamb’s marriage supper 
(Revelation 19:6-9). 

An Outline of the Poem 

It is not always easy to see who is speaking. The 
outline below is consistent with the content of the 
book, but other outlines are also possible. (It helps 
to mark in the Bible which verses belong to which 

of the three speakers, so that the poem can be read 
through in its entirety without interruptions.) 

Chapter 1: The bride expresses her love for 
the king, and the king for his bride. 

The King — 1:9—11, 1:15, 1:17 

The Bride (the Shulammite) — l:2-4a, 1:4c- 

7 (“How right...”), 1:12-14, 1:16 

Chorus of Palace Women — 1:4b (“we 

rejoice...”), 1:8 

Chapters 2-3: The bride thinks about the king 
both day and night. 

The King — 2:2, 2:14-15 

The Bride (the Shulammite) — 2:1, 2:3-13, 


Chapter 4: The king also cannot keep from 
thinking about his bride, who invites him into 
her garden of marital delights. 

The King — 4:115 
The Bride (the Shulammite) — 4: 16 
Chapter 5: The bride remembers the delight 
of their union, and she is almost overwhelmed 
by her love for the king. 

The King — 5:1a 

The Bride (the Shulammite) — 5:2-8, 5: 10— 

Chorus of Palace Women — 5:1b (“Eat, O 
friends... ”), 5:9 

Chapter 6:l-7:9a: The king’s response to the 
bride’s expression of her love; the bride’s 

The King— 6:4-9, 6:11-12, 6:13b-7:9a 
(“Why would you gaze . . . ”) 

The Bride (the Shulammite) — 6:2-3 
Chorus of Palace Women — 6:1, 6: 10, 6:13a 
Chapter 7:9b-8:14: The bride’s frustration 
that social custom and the king’s official 
duties limit the time she can spend with him. 
The final expression of love and commitment. 
The King — 8:13 

The Bride (the Shulammite) — 7:9b-8:4 
“May the wine...”), 8:5b-7 (“Under the 
tree...”), 8:10-12, 8:14 
Chorus of Palace Women — 8:5a 


Originally, the term “prophet” was applied to 
individuals who provided significant military and 
judicial leadership — for example, Moses 

(Deuteronomy 18:15) and Deborah (Judges 4:4). It 
was also used of persons who had ecstatic 
experiences of contact with God (Numbers 11:24- 
29; 1 Samuel 19:20-24; 2 Kings 3:15) and of 
individuals who were protected by God in some 
special way (Abraham, Genesis 20:7; see also 
Psalm 105:15). 

During the monarchy, prophets became 
advisers to the kings (1 Samuel 22:5; Isaiah 37:1— 
4; Jeremiah 37:16-17). There were at times many 
prophets: in the days of Ahab there were 400 (1 
Kings 22:6). 

The important early prophets (Samuel, Elijah, 
Elisha) did not leave behind any writings that have 

been preserved. They advised the king, and if 
necessary opposed him (Elijah and Ahab!), but it 
is the later, writing prophets who stand out most 
clearly as the voice of God in the face of the 
people’s disobedience. They address not only the 
king but also the nation as a whole. 

The prophets of Israel were individuals called 
by God to bring the people back to God. The office 
of prophet was not hereditary like that of priest or 
king. Prophets were chosen from many different 
walks of life, and the call was not an invitation but 
a divine appointment (see Amos 7:15). 

The Prophets and the Covenant 

The prophets were not merely preachers. They 
were the voice of the covenants God made with 
Abraham (Genesis 12, 15), with Israel at Mount 
Sinai (Exodus 24), and with David (2 Samuel 7). 

These covenants were in effect treaties, with 
mutual obligations and with a clear statement of 
what would happen if the people kept the 
stipulations of the covenant and what would 
happen if they ignored them. Deuteronomy 28 

outlines the curses and blessings that will result 
from disobedience and obedience. (Deuteronomy 
follows the format of Hittite treaties; see 
Deuteronomy .) 

Thus, when the prophets warn of the disasters 
that will befall Israel or Judah because of their 
disobedience, they are saying that the covenant 
warnings given hundreds of years before are about 
to be fulfilled. In the same way, since the covenant 
also specifies blessing as the reward for 
obedience, the prophets can promise blessing if the 
people turn back to God. The future is thus 
“contingent” on the people’s response to the 
message of the prophets — until a point of no return 
is reached. 

But even then, the prophets can promise future 
blessing. God made the covenant because He 
loved Israel. That is why God will be faithful to 
the covenant, even if Israel is not — in fact, He will 
go beyond the terms of the covenant and replace it 
with a new covenant. This covenant will be 
written on people’s hearts rather than on stone 
tablets (see the magnificent promises in Jeremiah 

30-31, especially 31:31-37). 

The prophets are thus the spiritual conscience 
of the nation. They are appointed to remind kings, 
priests, and people of their obligations to God and 

There were many prophets in Israel who never 
wrote or whose writings have not been preserved. 
There also appears to have been an order of 
prophets, with its own schools (see sidebar 
Prophets in the chapter on 1 Samuel). The prophets 
whose writings we still have (and the two great 
prophets about whom we read in the books of 
Kings and Chronicles, Elijah and Elisha) were 
very conscious of speaking in the name of the Lord. 
The constantly reiterated, solemn introduction to 
their message is, “This is what the Lord says” or 
“The word of the Lord came to me.” 

The false prophets, of which there were 
apparently many, remembered the promises of 
blessing in the covenant and reassured the people 
that God would never allow His temple and 
Jerusalem, His city, or Israel, His people, to be 
destroyed. They conveniently forgot that the 

covenant also spelled out the curse that 
disobedience would bring on the people and the 
land. They also forgot that, not religious rituals, but 
the love of God for His people and of His people 
for Him were the foundation of the covenant. 
Religious rituals were significant only if they were 
the expression of an inner attitude. God can get 
along very well without a temple and sacrifices — 
but in His love He greatly desires the love of His 

When the prophets spoke up for justice and 
advocated concern for the poor, they did not say 
these things because they had come to a more 
enlightened vision than their contemporaries. 
Rather, they appealed to the ancient covenant, of 
which justice and social concern were an essential 
part: for example, concern for widows and 
orphans, for the poor, and for foreigners, as well 
as the provisions of the Year of Jubilee, which (if 
kept) would make it impossible for any family to 
descend permanently into landless poverty. 








ieS i 

Early Prophets 

(1 Samuel) 

1050-1000 B.C 



(1 Kings 17- 
2 Kings 2) 

875-848 B.C. 



(1 Kings 19; 

2 Kings 2-13) 

848-797 B.C. 



(1 Kings 22) 

849 B.C. 


Assyrian Age 


770 B.C 



760 BC. 



760 730 B.C. 



740 700 BC 



737-690 B.C. 


Babylonian Age 


650 B.C. 



630 B.C. 



677 B.C, 



627-580 B.C. 



605 530 BC. 



593-570 B C. 


Persian Age 


520 B.C. 



520 518 BC. 



500 B.C. 



500 BC. 



443 B.C. 


— Blttd on )o*n H. Wilton. dfcttft ofofcol and Bock ground Chorti of the Okt AMMMM 

The Prophets of Israel and Judah 

The chart Prophets shows that the early prophets 
and the earliest writing prophets addressed Israel 
(the northern kingdom), which ceased to exist in 
722 B.c. when the Assyrians destroyed Samaria. 
Beginning with Isaiah, the prophets addressed 
Judah, the southern kingdom 

(Note that the dates are approximate; 
especially the dates of Obadiah and Joel are 


The Messianic Prophet 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; 
the whole earth is full of his glory. ’’ 

— Isaiah 6:3 

You will keep in perfect peace 
him whose mind is steadfast, 
because he trusts in you. 

— Isaiah 26:3 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, 
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. ” 

— Isaiah 60: 1 

(For a summary of Isaiah’s prophecies about the 

Messiah, see sidebar A Summary of Isaiah’s 
Predictions in the chapter on Isaiah.) 

Isaiah is called the messianic prophet because 
he was so thoroughly imbued with the idea that his 
nation was to be a nation through whom one day a 
great and wonderful blessing would come from 
God to all nations: the Messiah, sent from God, 
who would bring peace, justice, and healing to the 
whole world. He was continually focused on the 
day when that great and wonderful work would be 

The New Testament says that Isaiah “saw the 
glory of Christ, and spoke of him” (John 12:41). 

The Man Isaiah 

Isaiah was a prophet of the southern kingdom, 
Judah, at the time the northern kingdom, Israel, had 
already been destroyed by the Assyrians. 

Isaiah lived during the reigns of kings Uzziah, 
Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. God called him in the 
year of Uzziah’s death, but he may have received 
some of his visions earlier (see on 6:1). According 
to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was executed by King 

Manasseh. We may tentatively place his active 
ministry at about 740-700 B.c. 

Rabbinic tradition has it that Isaiah’s father, 
Amoz (not the same as Amos the prophet), was a 
brother of King Amaziah. This would make Isaiah 
a first cousin of King Uzziah and a grandson of 
King Joash, and thus of royal blood, a man of the 

Isaiah wrote other books, which have not been 
preserved to us: a Life of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 
26:22) and a Book of the Kings of Israel and 
Judah (2 Chronicles 32:32). He is quoted in the 
New Testament more than any other prophet. What 
a mind he had! In some of his rhapsodies he 
reaches heights unequaled even by Shakespeare, 
Milton, or Homer. 

An unsubstantiated Jewish tradition (The 
Ascension of Isaiah) claims that Isaiah was sawed 
in half during the reign of King Manasseh of Judah. 
Hebrews 11:37 (“they were sawed in two”) may 
refer to Isaiah’s death. 

The Assyrian Background of Isaiah’s Mi nistry 

The Assyrian Empire had been expanding for 150 
years before the days of Isaiah. As early as 840 
B.c., Israel, under King Jehu, had begun to pay 
tribute to Assyria. While Isaiah was still a young 
man (734 B.c,), Assyria took away the population 
of the northern part of Israel. Thirteen years later 
(72 1 B.c,), Samaria fell, and the rest of Israel was 
forced into exile. Then, a few years later, 
Sennacherib of Assyria came into Judah, destroyed 
46 walled cities, and took 200,000 captives with 
him. Finally, in 701 B.c,, when Isaiah was an old 
man, the Assyrians were stopped before the walls 
of Jerusalem by an angel of God (2 Chronicles 
32:21). Thus Isaiah’s whole life was spent under 
the shadow of the threat of Assyria, and he himself 
witnessed the ruin of his entire nation at their 
hands, except Jerusalem. 

Scroll. All original copies of Bible books, as far 
as is known, have been lost. Our Bible is made 
from copies of copies. Until the invention of 
printing in a.d. 1454, these copies were made by 


Old Testament books were written in Hebrew 
(and a few sections in Aramaic). New Testament 
books were written in Greek. The oldest known, 
extant, complete Bible manuscripts date from the 
4th and 5th centuries a.d. They are in Greek, 
containing, for the Old Testament, the Septuagint, 
which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old 
Testament made in the 3rd century B.c. (See 
Languages and Writings in the New Testament Era 
in the chapter The 400 Years Between the 
Testaments, and The Old Testament Canon in the 
chapter How We Got the Bible.) 

The oldest known existing Hebrew manuscripts 
of Old Testament books were made about a.d. 900. 
These contain what is called the Masoretic Text of 
the Hebrew Old Testament, from which our 
English translations of Old Testament books have 
been made. The Masoretic Text comes from a 
comparison of all available manuscripts, copied 
from previous copies by many different lines of 
scribes. In these manuscripts there is so little 
variation that Hebrew scholars are in general 

agreement that our present Bible text is essentially 
the same as that in the original books themselves. 

The wolf will live with the lamb, 
the leopard will lie down with the goat, 
the calf and the lion and the yearling 

and a little child will lead them. . . . 
They will neither harm nor destroy 
on all my holy mountain, 
for the earth will be full of the knowledge 

the Lord 

as the waters cover the sea. 

— Isaiah 11:6, 9 

Then, in 1947, at Ain Fashkha, about seven 
miles south of Jericho and one mile west of the 
Dead Sea, some wandering Arab Bedouins, 
carrying goods from the Jordan Valley to 

Bethlehem and searching for a lost goat in a wadi 
(stream or river bed) that empties into the Dead 
Sea, came upon a partially collapsed cave, in 
which they found a number of crushed jars from 
which ends of scrolls protruded. The Bedouins 
pulled out the scrolls, took them along, and passed 
them on to St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Convent in 
Jerusalem, who turned them over to the American 
Schools of Oriental Research. These and other 
scrolls that were later found in that same vicinity, 
Qumran, are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

One of these scrolls was identified as the book 
of Isaiah, written 2000 years ago — 1000 years 
older than any known manuscript of any Hebrew 
Old Testament book. It is a scroll, written in 
ancient Hebrew script on parchment, about 24 feet 
long, made up of sheets of about 10 by 15 inches, 
sewn together. It was made in the 2nd century B.c. 

This and the other scrolls had originally been 
carefully sealed in earthenware jars. Evidently 
they were part of a Jewish library that had been 
hidden in this isolated cave in time of danger, 
perhaps during the Roman conquest of Judea. 

Bible scholars have concluded that the Dead 
Sea Scrolls of Isaiah are essentially the same as 
the book of Isaiah in our Bible — a voice from 
2000 years ago confirming the integrity of our 
Bible. In all, 22 copies of the book of Isaiah have 
been found at Qumran, though not all are complete. 

The Grand Achievement of Isaiah’s Life 

Isaiah’s greatest achievement was the deliverance 
of Jerusalem from the Assyrians. It was through his 
prayer, and by his advice to King Hezekiah, and by 
the direct miraculous intervention of God, that the 
dreaded Assyrian army was sent home in disarray 
from before the walls of Jerusalem. (See chapters 
36-37.) Sennacherib, king of Assyria, lived 20 
years after this, but he never again marched against 


Uzziah 92-740 B.c. A good king with a long 
and successful reign 

Jotham 750-732 A good king; mostly 
coregent with Uzziah 

Ahaz 735-716 Very wicked (see under 2 
Chronicles 28) 

Hezekiah 7 1 6-687 A good king (see under 2 
Chronicles 29) 

Manasseh 697-643 Very wicked (see under 
2 Chronicles 33) 


Jeroboam II 793-753 B.c, A long, 
prosperous, but idolatrous reign 
Zechariah 753-0752 Assassinated 
Shallum 752 Assassinated 
Menahem 7 5 2-7 42 Extremely brutal 
Pekahiah 742-740 Assassinated by Pekah 
Pekah 752-732 Under Pekah the northern 
part of Israel was taken into captivity (734 

Hoshea 732-722 The last king of Israel; 
Samaria fell in 721 B.c. 


This frightful indictment seems to belong to the 
middle period of Hezekiah’s reign, after the fall of 
the northern kingdom, when the Assyrians had 
invaded Judah and had carried away a large part of 
its population, so that Jerusalem alone was left 
(vv. 7-9). Hezekiah’s reforms had barely scratched 
the surface of the rotten life of the people. The 
dreaded Assyrian tornado was drawing ever 
closer and closer. 

But it made no difference. The diseased nation, 
instead of cleansing itself, only paid more 
meticulous attention to the camouflage of devotion 
to religious services. Isaiah’s scathing 
denunciation of their hypocritical religiosity (vv. 
10-17) reminds us of Jesus’ merciless 
condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees 
(Matthew 23). The point is that making a show of 
religiosity is of no avail for “Sodom” (v. 10). Only 

genuine repentance and obedience would save 
them (vv. 16-23). Then Isaiah turns from this 
sickening picture to the day of Zion’s purification 
and redemption, when the wicked will be left to 
burn like a dried-up oak tree (vv. 24-3 1). 


These three chapters seem to be an expansion of 
the closing thought of chapter 1 . They deal with the 
future glory of Zion in contrast to God’s judgment 
on the wicked. The allusion to idols and foreign 
customs (2:6-9) may locate this vision in the reign 
of Ahaz. The peace described may also prophesy 
conditions in the New Jerusalem after Christ’s 
return, when the wicked have been judged 
(Revelation 21). 

Zion will be the center of world civilization in 
an era of universal and endless peace (2:2-4). 
This passage of magnificent optimism was uttered 
at a time when Jerusalem was a veritable cesspool 

of filth. Whatever, whenever, wherever that happy 
age is to be, it will be the inheritance of God’s 
people, with the wicked left out. (See further under 

Coming judgment for idol worshipers (2:5- 
22). Suffering and exile lie ahead for Judah (3:1- 
15) — even for the fashionable ladies of Jerusalem 
(3:16-26). Their experience will be like that of the 
ladies of luxury in Samaria, described in Amos 

Seven women to one man (4:1), because the 
men will have been killed in war. 

The coming “Branch” (4:2-6). This is 
Isaiah’s first mention of the future Messiah. “The 
Branch” would be a new shoot coming out of the 
stump of the fallen family tree of David (11:1; 
53:2; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). 
He would be the one to purge the filth from Zion 
and make her a blessing to the world. 



A sort of funeral dirge. After centuries of most 
extraordinary care, God’s vineyard — His nation — 
turns out to be fruitless and disappointing, so it is 
now to be abandoned. Jesus’ parable of the 
vineyard (Matthew 21:33-45) seems to be an echo 
of this parable. The sins Isaiah denounces here 
especially are greed, injustice, and drunkenness. 
The vast estates of the rich, accumulated by 
robbery of the poor, soon would become 

A bath (v. 10) is six gallons (22 liters), a 
homer is six bushels, and an ephah is only one- 
tenth of a homer. The harvest does not even 
recover the investment in seed. 

Draw sin along (v. 18) as if sin and 
wickedness were their most prized possessions; 
they scoff at the idea that God would punish them. 

Distant nations (vv. 25-30): the mighty 
nations are like docile dogs to God — He whistles 
and they come — the Assyrians in Isaiah’s own 
time; the Babylonians who, 100 years later, 

destroyed Jerusalem; and the Romans, who in a.d. 
70 struck the death-blow to Jewish national 


There is difference of opinion as to whether this 
vision came before the visions of the first five 
chapters. The dates mentioned in the book are in 
chronological sequence (6:1; 7:1; 14:28; 20:1; 
36:1). This indicates that the book follows a 
general chronological order, but not necessarily in 
all particulars. Isaiah, in later life, probably 
rearranged visions he had written down at various 
times of his long ministry, guided in part by the 
sequence of thoughts, so that some chapters may 
antedate preceding chapters. 

Also, opinion varies as to whether this was 
Isaiah’s original call or a summons to a special 
mission. The statement in 1:1 indicated that some 
of his ministry was in the days of Uzziah, while 
this call came in the year of Uzziah’s death. This 

may imply that he had already done some earlier 
preaching and that this call was God’s 

authorization for Isaiah’s ministry in the future. 

The particular task to which Isaiah was called 
seems, on the face of it, to have been the bringing 
about of the final hardening of the nation so as to 
ensure its destruction (vv. 9-10). But God’s 
purpose, of course, was not to harden the nation 
but rather to bring it to repentance in order to save 
it from destruction. This is clearly illustrated in the 
case of Jonah, whose announcement of the 
destruction of Nineveh caused the city to repent. 
Isaiah’s whole ministry — with its marvelous 
visions and climaxed by one of the most 
stupendous miracles of the ages — was, so to speak, 
God’s frantic waving of a red flag to halt the nation 
in its mad sweep toward the precipice of 
destruction. But when a nation sets itself against 
God, even His wondrous mercy results only in 
further hardening. 

For how long? (v. 11): how long shall this 
hardening process go on? The answer is bleak: 
until the land is ruined and the people are gone (vv. 

11 - 12 ). 

Tenth (v. 13): a remnant will be left, but it will 
in its turn also be destroyed. This was uttered in 
735 B.c. Within a year, the northern portion of 
Israel was taken away by the Assyrians. Within 14 
years, all the rest of the northern kingdom had 
fallen (721 B.c.), and Judah (roughly a “tenth”) 
alone was left. Another 100 years, and Judah was 
also destroyed (586 b.c.). 


The occasion of this prophecy was the invasion of 
Judah by the kings of Syria and Israel. They first 
attacked Judah separately (2 Chronicles 28:5-6), 
then together (2 Kings 16:5). Their object was to 
replace Ahaz with another king (v. 6). Ahaz 
appealed to the king of Assyria for help (2 Kings 
16:7). The king of Assyria responded with an 
invasion of Syria and the northern part of Israel 
and took their populations with them into exile in 
734 b.c. (2 Kings 15:29; 16:9). 

In the early part of this Syro-Israelite attack on 
Jerusalem, Isaiah assured Ahaz that the attack 
would fail, Syria and Israel destroyed, and Judah 
saved. The 65 years (v. 8) is thought to cover the 
period from the first deportation of Israel (734 
B.c.) to the settlement of foreigners in the land by 
Esarhaddon around 670 B.c. (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 

The virgin and her son Immanuel (vv. 10- 
16). This is spoken of as a “sign” intended to give 
the skeptical Ahaz assurance of speedy 
deliverance. A “sign” is a miracle that is 
performed to provide evidence for the truth. The 
virgin is not named, but the reference is to 
something very unusual that is not further explained 
but that would happen in the immediate future in 
David’s family (Ahaz’s own household). It is a 
case of blending pictures that are on the near and 
the far horizons, as is so frequent in the prophets. 

For to us a child is born 
to us a son is given, 

and the government will be 
on his shoulders. 

And he will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, 

Mighty God, 

Everlasting Father, Prince 
of Peace. 

Of the increase of his government 
and peace 
there will be no end. 

— Isaiah 9:6-7 

The royal character of the child is indicated in 
8:8; the context identifies him with the child called 
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting 
Father, Prince of Peace” in 9:6-7, who can be no 
other than the future Messiah. It is so quoted in 
Matthew 1 :23. Thus, as Isaiah is talking to Ahaz of 
signs in his own family — the house of David — God 
projects before his mind an image of a greater sign 
yet to occur in David’s family: the virgin birth of 

the greater Son of David Himself. 

Judah to be devastated by Assyria (vv. 17- 
25) — the same Assyria that was helping Judah 
against Israel and Syria. It happened within 
Isaiah’s lifetime; Jerusalem alone remained. 


Three children are mentioned in connection with 
the invasion of Judah by Syria and Israel: one in 
the family of David, Immanuel (7:13-14), and two 
in Isaiah’s own family: Shear-Jashub (7:3) and 
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8: 1-4). 

Shear-Jashub means “a remnant shall return.” 
Isaiah, foreseeing the Babylonian captivity of 
Judah 100 years before it came to pass, envisions a 
rescued remnant and gives his son this name of 
promise. That remnant and its glorious future are 
the main theme of Isaiah’s book. 

Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means “quick to the 
plunder, swift to the spoil” — that is, Syria and 

Israel will soon be destroyed. Thus naming his 
child for the idea of swift deliverance is Isaiah’s 
way of emphasizing what he had already predicted 
in 7:4, 7, 16. And it promptly happened. Then the 
victorious Assyrians swept on into Judah (v. 8) 
and were stopped by direct intervention of God 

Thus the names of Isaiah’s sons reflect the 
heart of his daily preaching: present deliverance, 
coming exile or captivity, future glory. 

The distress and gloom of the exile (vv. 9- 
22). Isaiah is told to write his prophecy and to 
preserve it for reference in the day of its 
fulfillment^. 16). 


The setting for this sublime vision was the fall of 
Israel, which Isaiah had just predicted in chapters 
7-8. Zebulun and Naphtali (v. 1), the Galilee 
region, was the first region to fall to the Assyrians 
(2 Kings 15:29). But that same region would one 

day have the proud honor of giving to the world the 
Redeemer of humanity, the King of the ages. In 
2:2-4 Isaiah sees Zion’s future universal reign; in 
4:2-6 he sees the King Himself (John 12:41); in 
7:14 His virgin birth is predicted; and here, in 
9:6-7, Isaiah speaks in measured, majestic words 
of His deity and the eternal nature of His throne. 

Samaria’s persistent impenitence (9:8-10:4). 
Following his habit of suddenly shifting back and 
forth between his own time and the future, Isaiah 
abruptly turns his eyes toward Samaria. Many of 
the inhabitants of the Galilee region were carried 
away in 734 B.c,, but Samaria held out until 721 
B.c. These lines seem to belong to the 13 years in 
between, when the people who were left still 
persevered in their defiance of both God and the 
Assyrians. It is a poem of four stanzas, warning 
Samaria of what was in store for them. 

Isa. 10:5-34 THE ADVANCING 

This was written after the fall of Samaria (v. 11), 
in defiance of the boastful Assyrians as they 
marched on into Judah, up to the very gates of 
Jerusalem. The cities named in vv. 28-32 were 
just north of Jerusalem. God had used the 
Assyrians to punish Israel, but here He cautions 
them against overestimating their power (v. 15) 
and promises them a humiliating defeat (v. 26), 
like the defeat of the Midianites by Gideon (Judges 
7: 19-25) and that of the Egyptians in the Red Sea 
(Exodus 14). Sargon, one year after he had 
destroyed Samaria, turned southward, invaded 
Judah (720 B.c,), took a number of Philistine cities, 
and defeated the Egyptian army. In 713 B.c. 
Sargon’s army again invaded Judah, Philistia, 
Edom, and Moab, and in 701 B.c, a vast army of 
Assyrians came again into the land — at which time 
God made good His promise and dealt the 
Assyrians such a sudden and violent blow that they 
never marched against Jerusalem again (37:36). 

Isa. 11-12 THE “BRANCH” AND 

These chapters are an expansion of 2:2-4; 4:2-6; 
7:14; 9:1-7. Here Isaiah again suddenly turns his 
eyes to the far future, after predicting the 
overthrow of the Assyrian army, and gives us one 
of the most glorious pictures of the world to come 
in all of Scripture. A world without war, ruled by a 
righteous and benevolent King of Davidic descent, 
consisting of the redeemed of all nations together 
with the restored remnant of Judah. Whether this 
will ever be in our world of flesh and blood or in 
an era “beyond the veil,” we do not know. But that 
it is to be is as sure as the morning. The subject is 
continued again in 25:6. Chapter 12 is a song of 
praise for the day of triumph, which God put in 
Isaiah’s mouth, one of the songs in the hymnbook of 
heaven, which we will all sing when we get there, 
when all discordant elements shall have 

Isa. 13:1-14:27 THE FALL OF 

In Isaiah’s time, Assyria was the dominant power 
of the world, while Babylon was under the control 
of Assyria. Babylon rose to become the dominant 
world power in 605 B.c. and fell to the Medes and 
Persians in 539 B.c, Thus Isaiah sang of the fall ol 
Babylon 100 years before its rise. Modern critics, 
therefore, claim that these cannot be the words ol 
Isaiah but must be those of some later prophet, 
spoken after the fact. However, it is specifically 
stated that they are Isaiah’s words (13:1). 

The splendor to which Babylon rose 100 years 
after Isaiah’s day, to become the Queen City of the 
pre-Christian world, “the glory of kingdoms” 
(13:19), “the city of gold” (14:4), is here as 
clearly envisioned as if Isaiah had been there. But 
the burden of the prophecy is the fall of Babylon, 
pictured in such detail that it awes us into profound 
wonderment. The Medes, who in Isaiah’s day were 
an almost unknown people, are named as the 
destroyers of Babylon ( 13: 17-19). 

The gist of the prophecy is this: Babylon shall 
supersede Assyria (14:25), and Media shall 
supersede Babylon (13:17), and Babylon shall 
pass away forever (13:19-22; 14:22-23). (For 
fulfillment of this astonishing prediction, see under 
2 Kings 25.) 

The point of special interest was that the fall of 
Babylon would mean the release of the captives or 
exiles (14:1-4). Within one year after the fall of 
Babylon, Cyrus, the Medo-Persian king, issued a 
decree that allowed the Jews to return to their 
homeland (Ezra 1:1). 

A hundred years after Isaiah, when Babylon 
had risen to power and was demolishing 
Jerusalem, Jeremiah would take up Isaiah’s cry for 
vengeance (see Jeremiah 50-5 1). 

Babylon, as oppressor of the Jews, was the 
counterpart and pattern of a New Testament power 
that will enslave the people of the earth 
(Revelation 17-19). 

Isa. 14:28-32 PHILISTIA 

The snake (v. 29) probably means Tiglath-pileser, 
who had taken certain Philistine cities and who 
had died just a year ahead of Ahaz (v. 28). The 
more poisonous viper and the “darting, venomous 
serpent” were Sargon and Sennacherib, who 
completed the desolation of Philistia. Envoys (v. 
32) probably were Philistine ambassadors asking 
Jerusalem for help against the Assyrians. (Other 
denunciations of the Philistines are found in 
Jeremiah 47; Amos 1:6-8; Zephaniah 2:4-7; 
Zechariah 9:5-7.) 

Isa. 15-16 MOAB 

Moab was a rolling plateau of rich pasturelands 
lying east of the Dead Sea. The Moabites were 
descendants of Lot (Genesis 19:37), and thus a 
nation related to the Jews. This was one of Isaiah’s 
earlier predictions, now reiterated with a time 
limit of three years (16: 14). The cities named were 

pillaged by Tiglath-pileser III in 732 B.c., by 
Sargon II in 713 B.c., and by Sennacherib in 701 
B.c, It is not indicated to which of these three 
Isaiah refers. But Isaiah advises the Moabites that 
it would be to their advantage to renew their 
allegiance to the house of David (16:1-5); at the 
mention of the house of David an image of the 
future Messiah comes into his vision (v. 5). In the 
family tree of David there was a Moabitess: Ruth 
(Ruth 4:17-22). (For other prophecies about 
Moab, see Jeremiah 48; Amos 2:1-3; Zephaniah 
2 : 8 - 11 .) 


A continuation of the thought of chapter 7, probably 
written at about the same time, during the Syro- 
Israelite attack on Judah (734 B.c.), and fulfilled 
shortly thereafter in the invasions of Tiglath- 
pileser and Sargon. It is directed also against 
Israel (vv. 3-4) because they were in alliance with 

Look to their Maker (v. 7): the remnant left in 
the northern kingdom returned to Jehovah, as 
indicated in 2 Chronicles 34:9. Isaiah closes with 
a vision of the overthrow of the Assyrians, 
following their victory over Syria and Israel (vv. 
12-14; especially v. 14, which seems a definite 
reference to 37:36). 

Isa. 18 CUSH 

Cush (Kjy Ethiopia) was southern Egypt, whose 
powerful king at that time ruled over all of Egypt. 
This is not a prophecy of doom, but seems rather to 
refer to the excitement and call to arms among the 
Cushites at the advance of Sennacherib’s army into 
Judah, whose fall would leave open the gateway 
for the Assyrian march on into Egypt (vv. 1-3). 
The miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem (vv. 4-6; 
37:36) is the cause for Cush’s message of gratitude 
for the destruction of the Assyrian army (v. 7; see 2 
Chronicles 32:23). 

Isa. 19 EGYPT 

A period of anarchy and internal conflict (vv. 1- 
4). This actually began at about the time of Isaiah’s 
death. The cruel master (v. 4) is the Assyrian king 
Esarhaddon, who shortly after Isaiah’s death 
subdued Egypt (670 B.c,). 

The decline and disintegration of Egypt is 
predicted (vv. 5-17). This all came to pass (see 

Jeremiah 46; Ezekiel 29). 

Egypt and Assyria will accept the religion of 
Judah (w. 18-25). After the Babylonian exile, 
many Jews remained in the Euphrates valley, and 
great numbers of them settled in Egypt. Alexandria, 
the second-leading city of the world in Jesus’ day, 
had a significant Jewish population. The 

Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was 
made there. “City of Destruction” is probably a 
reference to Heliopolis, the city of the sun god (the 
Hebrew words for “sun” and “destruction” are 
almost identical). ft was destroyed by 

Nebuchadnezzar (see Jeremiah 43:12-13). 


Isaiah’s warning of their defeat and captivity is 
intended to discourage Judah from looking to Egypt 
for aid against Assyria. This was 711 B.c. The 
prediction was fulfilled 11 years later. 
Sennacherib’s annals for 701 B.c, say: “1 fought 
with the kings of Egypt, accomplished their 

overthrow, and captured alive charioteers and sons 
of the king.” Esarhaddon further ruined Egypt (see 
under 19:1-4). 

Sargon (v. 1): this was the only known mention 
of Sargon’s name until archaeological excavations 
of the 19th century revealed him as one of the 
greatest of the Assyrian kings. 


Babylon (vv. 1-10), surrounded by a vast system 
of dikes and canals, was like a city in the sea. This 
is a graphic announcement of its fall. The mention 
of Elam and Media (v. 2) point to Babylon’s 
capture by Cyrus (539 B.c.; see further under 
chapters 13-14). 

Dumah (vv. 11-12) was the name of a district 
south of Edom; here the name is used for Edom, of 
which Seir was the central district. 

Arabia (vv. 13-17) refers to the desert 
between Edom and Babylon. Dedan, Tema, and 

Kedar were places where leading Arabian tribes 
lived. This is a prediction that they will experience 
a terrific blow within a year — and indeed, Sargon 
invaded Arabia in 715 B.c. 


Jerusalem is referred to as the Valley of Vision 
because the hill on which it was situated was 
surrounded by valleys, with higher hills beyond, 
and was the place where God revealed Himself 
Jerusalem is rebuked for giving itself to reckless 
indulgence while besieged by the Assyrian army. 
Their defense (vv. 9-11; 2 Chronicles 32:3-5) 
included everything except turning to God. 

The demotion of Shebna, the palace steward 
(vv. 15-25), may have been because he, an officer 
of the house of David, was the leader in the city’s 
frivolous conduct in the face of grave danger. The 
elevation of Eliakim (“God raises up”) to the 
office of steward may have messianic implications 
(vv. 22-25). 

Wall. In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, 
Professor Nahum Avigad discovered the remains 
of a huge wall (the preserved portion is over 200 
feet long, 21 feet thick, and 10 feet high). This wall 
was built on top of houses that had been destroyed 
— as 22:10 says of Hezekiah: “You counted the 
buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to 
strengthen the wall.” 

Tomb. The tomb of Shebna, mentioned invv. 15— 
25, may have been found east of the old ancient 
core of Jerusalem by Charles Clermont-Ganneau in 
1870. The inscription on this tomb, situated in the 
village of Silwan, as translated by Professor 
Avigad reads (partially restored): “This is [the 
tomb of Shebna ] — -yahu who is over the house. . . . 
Cursed be the man who will open this.” The same 
title “who is over the house” is used of Shebna in 
Isaiah 22: 15. 

Isa. 23 TYRE 

Tyre had for centuries been the maritime center of 
the world’s commerce. It had planted colonies all 
around the Mediterranean. The grain of Egypt was 
one of the principal commodities in which it 
traded. It suffered terribly at the hands of the 
Assyrians, who had recently extended their sway 
over Babylon (v. 13). Tyre’s overthrow, its status 
as a forgotten city for 70 years, and its restoration 
are here predicted (vv. 14-18). This is thought to 
refer to its subjugation by Nebuchadnezzar. (See 
further under Ezekiel 26-28.) 


This vision seems to relate to the same period that 
Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24. It delineates the 
fearful calamities under which the earth, with all 
its castes, occupations, and social distinctions, 
shall pass away. As Jeremiah said of Babylon that 
it would “sink to rise no more” (Jeremiah 51:64), 

so Isaiah here says of the earth (v. 20). He seems 
to be predicting the destruction of the earth as 
further described in 2 Peter 3:7, 10-13 and 
Revelation 20. Later he looks beyond to “new 
heavens and a new earth” (65:17-66:24; 
Revelation 21: 1). 


Here Isaiah has transported himself beyond the 
crash of worlds into the age of the new heavens 
and new earth, and he puts into the mouth of the 
redeemed a song of praise to God for His 
wonderful works. He also describes a feast of rich 
food for all the peoples (v. 6) and the most 
wonderful of events — the destruction of death and 
the wiping away of all tears (v. 8). Some interpret 
these verses as referring to Jesus’ death and 
resurrection. However, it seems more likely that 
they describe the great marriage supper of the 
Lamb yet to come (Revelation 19:7-9; Matthew 

22:4). The feast, further described in Revelation 
19, is followed by the casting of the beast and the 
false prophet into the lake of fire. This is called the 
“second death” (Revelation 20: 14). 

As further evidence that Isaiah is speaking of 
an event yet to occur, we note that he is describing 
an event that “wipes away the tears from all 
faces.” We know that Isaiah is not referring to 
Jesus’ death and resurrection because today we 
still experience suffering and tears on earth. The 
event that Isaiah is describing has clearly not taken 
place yet. John tells us in Revelation 20 that after 
the second death we will live with Christ in the 
New Jerusalem and that “God shall wipe away all 
tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more 
death, neither sorrow, nor crying neither shall there 
be any more pain: for the former things are passed 
away” (Revelation 21:4 KJV). 

The mention of Moab (v. 10) illustrates 
Isaiah’s mental habit of abrupt transition back and 
forth between future glory and present local 
circumstance. The fate of Moab, constant rival and 
recurrent enemy of Judah, may be used here as 

typical of the fate of Zion’s enemies generally. 


A continuation of the song of the preceding chapter. 
The “strong city” (v. 1), with God’s salvation as its 
protection, stands in contrast to the “lofty city” (v. 
5), the stronghold of the wicked. The grandest 
verse in the chapter is verse 19: the resurrection of 
God’s people. “The earth will disclose the blood 
shed upon her” (v. 21) in the day of judgment, 
when man’s long reign of wickedness shall be 


In 5:1-7 Isaiah sang the funeral dirge for God’s 
vineyard. Here it is a joy-song of the vineyard 
coming to life again. Israel will blossom again and 

be fruitful. God will slay Leviathan and the 
monster of the sea (v. 1), possibly meaning Assyria 
and Egypt (see also v. 12). The sea monster or 
dragon (KJV) is a symbolic reference to Satan, 
used also in Revelation 20. God will send 
corrective judgments on Judah (vv. 7-11), but in 
the end, all Israel will be gathered in Jerusalem in 
worship (vv. 12-13). 

In that day (vv. 1-2, 12-13): Isaiah uses this 
phrase no fewer than 43 times in the book, 42 of 
which are in the first 3 1 chapters. We might almost 
call “that day” the subject of the book, mixed with 
references to Isaiah’s own day. 


Back from visions of “that day,” Isaiah sternly 
warns his own people, who were given over to 
sensual indulgence, of impending calamity, as in 
chapter 22. This evidently was before the fall of 
Samaria in 721 B.c. 

Glorious beauty (v. 1): Samaria, capital of the 
northern kingdom, was situated on a rounded hill, 
in a rich and beautiful valley, crowned with 
luxurious palaces and gardens. 

Powerful and strong (v. 2): the Assyrian 
power, which took Samaria after a three-year siege 
but was turned back at the gate of Jerusalem (v. 6). 

The scoffing revelers called Isaiah’s warnings 
childish (vv. 9-10). Isaiah’s reply (vv. 11-13) is 
that they will find Assyrian bondage as 
monotonous as his warnings. Hezekiah was a good 
king, but many of the powerful nobles in his 
government scorned both Isaiah and Jehovah (vv. 
14-22) and were relying on their own power and 

Covenant with death (v. 15): their scornful 
boast of security. 

The cornerstone (v. 16) is God’s promise to 
David, on which they should have relied. This is a 
messianic prophecy. Isaiah refers several times to 
Christ as a rock or cornerstone (see 8:14; 17:10). 

Justice and righteous (v. 17) will be the 
standards that God uses to judge His people. Hail 

is often associated with God’s judgment (v. 2; 
30:30; 32:19; Ezekiel 38:22; Revelation 8:7; 
11:19). It is interesting to note that stoning was the 
ordinary form of punishment prescribed by 
Hebrew law. It was the penalty for blasphemy 
(Leviticus 24:16), idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:6— 
10), desecration of the Sabbath (Numbers 15: 32- 
36), human sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2), and 
occultism (Leviticus 20:27). 

God’s strange work (v. 21) is His punishment 
of His own people by the sword of foreigners. The 
import of vv. 23-29 seems to be that for all things 
there is a time and a season: God does what is 
necessary at a given time. He sows and reaps, and 
His people must pay attention rather than presume 
that God will always protect them, regardless of 
what they do. 


Ariel (v. 1) is a name for Jerusalem meaning “the 

Lion of God,” defiantly holding the Assyrian army 
at bay. The besieging army, composed of soldiers 
of many nations, will be suddenly overwhelmed 
(vv. 5-8), which is what happened shortly 
thereafter (37:36). Zion’s blindness to her God: 
they render lip service (vv. 9-16) but substitute 
commandments of men for the Word of God. Jesus 
quoted this as applicable to the Pharisees of His 
day. We see it applicable to churches in our day as 

Wonder upon wonder (v. 14) refers to the 
miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem (37:36). 
Field and forest will change places (vv. 17-24); 
this difficult language may be a hint of the day 
when Gentiles would be grafted in with the people 
of God (Romans 11). 


Caravans laden with rich presents from Jerusalem 
make their way through the Negev, the desert of the 

south that is full of wild beasts, to seek the aid of 
Egypt (vv. 6-7). Judah will go into exile (vv. 8- 
17), and Egypt will be of no help. Write it down in 
a book that Judah shall be broken, so that future 
generations may see that it was foretold. It 
happened 100 years later, at the hands of Babylon. 
Very shortly the Assyrian army was routed (37:36), 
and within 100 years the Assyrian Empire was 


Isaiah asserts his confidence in the triumphant 
outcome of Zion’s crisis with Assyria (37:36); this 
coming event seems to be the background of almost 
every verse in this chapter. 


As Isaiah is thinking of the joyous aftermath of 

Zion’s deliverance from the Assyrian army and the 
vastly increased prestige of Hezekiah’s kingdom 
that resulted, there comes in the line of his distant 
vision a picture of David’s future King — to whom 
all Old Testament prophecy pointed and toward 
whom all Old Testament history moved, under 
whose righteous and blessed reign persons and 
things will stand in their true light and be called by 
their right names. It is difficult to see the 
connection between vv. 1-8 and Isaiah’s speech to 
the “complacent women” (vv. 9-15). There must 
have been a group of influential, godless women at 
the court who had set themselves against 
everything that Isaiah stood for (3:12, 16-26). His 
meaning here seems to be that a period of trouble 
is to intervene between the defeat of the Assyrian 
army and the reign of the Messiah. 

The forest (v. 19) is the Assyrian army. The 
city (v. 19) is Nineveh, or the centralized forces of 
evil in the latter days. 

Sowing by every stream (v. 20): patiently 
continuing to do daily tasks as an expression of 
trust in God, while waiting for the happy era of 

restored prosperity. 


Chapters 28-33 belong to the terrifying days of the 
Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, as told in chapters 
36-37. Sennacherib’s army was pillaging cities 
and ravaging the countryside (vv. 8-9). The people 
were panic-stricken (vv. 13-14). Through it all, 
Isaiah goes calmly about, assuring the people that 
God will smite the enemy with terror and that they 
shall flee, leaving behind their plunder, or loot (vv. 
3-4). God Himself protects Jerusalem like an 
encircling stream in which the enemy’s 
disintegrating ships will sink (vv. 21-23; see 
chapters 36-37.) 


Like chapter 24, this chapter seems to be a vision 
of the end time. Edom is used as a typical example 
of God’s wrath. Once populous and fertile, it is 
now one of the most desolate regions on earth, 
inhabited mainly by wild beasts, birds, and 
reptiles (vv. 10-15; see under Obadiah 16-17). 
Isaiah challenges future ages to note his words 
about Edom. 


One of the greatest chapters in the Bible. A poem 
of rare and superb beauty. It presents a picture of 
the last times, when the redeemed, after long 
suffering, finally shine forth in all the radiance of 
their heavenly glory. Returning exiles traveling 
along the highway (vv. 8-10) offer a marvelous 
image of the redeemed traveling home to God. 

Isa. 36-37 THE ASSYRIAN 

The defeat of the Assyrian army is recorded three 
times: here, in 2 Kings 18-19, and in 2 Chronicles 
32. It is one of the most astounding miracles of the 
Old Testament. In one night the Assyrian army is 
destroyed by direct divine intervention (37:36). 
This is the grand climax of which Isaiah had given 
repeated assurance: 10:24-34; 17:12-14; 29:5-8, 
14; 30:27-33; 31:4-9; 33:3-4, 21-23; 38:6. 

Sennacherib invaded Judah in 701 B.c, He 
boasts of capturing 46 strong, walled cities at that 
time and of having shut Hezekiah up in Jerusalem 
“like a bird in a cage.” However, Sennacherib’s 
texts do not speak of the capture of Jerusalem, and 
indeed, it appears that God answered Hezekiah’s 
prayer, for after 185,000 of his troops were killed, 
Sennacherib returned to Assyria, and Jerusalem 
was thus delivered. Revelation 16:14; 19:19; and 
20:8 describe another time when all the world’s 
mightiest armies will be gathered together to battle 
God. Once again, God will destroy them in an 

instant just as He destroyed the Assyrian army. 

i l 

Isa. 38-39 HEZEKIAH’S 


Hezekiah’s sickness occurred around 703 B.c., 15 
years before his death (38:5). The deliverance 
from Assyria was still in the future (38:6). 
Hezekiah’s miraculous recovery had created 
interest in Babylon (2 Chronicles 32:31; Isaiah 
38:7-8). The visit of the Babylonian envoys to 
Jerusalem must have looked suspicious to 
Sennacherib and may have hastened his invasion. 

Magnificent Rhapsodies of the 
Future, Isaiah 40 to 66 

Isaiah spent his life under the threatening shadow 
of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians had 
destroyed the northern portion of Israel in 733 B.c. 

and the rest of the northern kingdom, including 
Samaria, in 722 B.c. They had invaded Judah in 
712 B.c, and by 701 B.c, had taken all of Judah 
except Jerusalem Throughout these years Isaiah 
had steadfastly predicted that Jerusalem would 
stand. It did stand. This was the grand achievement 
of Isaiah’s life. God had saved his city when doom 
seemed certain. But now, with the Assyrian crisis 
past, Isaiah, who had already prophesied that 
Jerusalem would later fall to Babylon (39:6-7), 
assumes that the Babylonian exile is an 
accomplished fact and in his mind’s eye takes his 
stand with the exiles. So clear were some of his 
visions that in them he speaks of the future as if it 
were already past. 

Two Isaiahs? 

Nowhere in the book itself, or in the Bible, or 
in Jewish or Christian tradition is there any 
mention, or even a hint, of two authors. A 
“second Isaiah” is the creation of modern 

biblical criticism. The book of Isaiah in our 
Bible, and in Jesus’ day, is one book, not two. 
It is not a patchwork, but from beginning to 
end is characterized by unity of thought, set 
forth in sublime language that makes it one of 
the grandest works ever written. There was 
just one Isaiah, and notwithstanding the 
critics, this is his book. 


Some of the sentences seem to be utterances of 
angels, who cry to Isaiah, or to each other, in 
exultation over the wondrous things in store for 
God’s people when the long night of suffering is 
past. The advent of Christ is the subject of w. 1- 
1 1 . Verses 3-5 are quoted in all four Gospels as 
referring to His arrival on earth (Matthew 3:3; 
Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23). Mention, in this 
connection, of God’s Word as eternally 

impregnable (vv. 6-8) means that God’s prophetic 
promises cannot fail — Christ and heaven are sure. 
The infinite power of God, and the eternal youth of 
those who trust Him, form the subject matter of vv. 
12-3 1 . It is a grand chapter. 

He tends his flock like a shepherd: 

He gathers the lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to his heart; 
he gently leads those that have young. 

— Isaiah 40:11 


Cyrus is not named here, but he is named later, in 
44:28 and 45:1, and unmistakably is the “one from 
the east” (v. 2) and the “one from the north” (v. 25; 
armies from the east always entered Palestine from 
the north, since they had to follow the Euphrates 

River). Isaiah died 150 years before the days of 
Cyrus, yet here is a vision of Cyrus’s rapid 
conquest of the world, which is ascribed to the 
providence of God (v. 4). God promises protection 
for Israel (vv. 8-20) and then challenges the gods 
of the nations to show their ability to predict the 
future (vv. 21-29; see under chapter 44). 


Another vision of the coming Messiah and His 
work (vv. 1-17); it is quoted as such in Matthew 
12:17-21. But in vv. 18-25, the Lord’s servant is 
the nation Israel, who had to be corrected over and 
over for its failure to follow God. 


God had formed the nation for Himself. The nation 
had been consistently disobedient. Still, they were 

God’s nation, and through all their sins and 
sufferings God would work to demonstrate to all 
the world that He, and He alone, is God. 

Isa. 44-45 CYRUS 

These two chapters are a prediction of Israel’s 
return from exile under Cyrus, with special 
emphasis on God’s unique power to predict the 
future. Cyrus, king of Persia, reigned 539-530 B.c. 
He permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and 
issued a decree authorizing the rebuilding of the 
temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). 
Isaiah prophesied in 745-695 B.c,, more than 150 
years before the days of Cyrus. Yet he calls him by 
name and predicts that he will rebuild the temple, 
which in Isaiah’s day had not even been destroyed 

The main point of these two chapters is that 
God’s superiority over idols is proven by His 
ability to foretell the future, an idea that recurs 
throughout chapters 40-48 (41:21-24; 42:8-9; 

43:9-13; 44:6-8; 45:20-21; 46:9-11; 48:3-7). 
The calling of Cyrus by name long before he was 
born is given as an example of God’s power to 
know (and direct) the future (45:4-6). If this is not 
a prediction, it does not even make sense in the 
connection in which it is used. Critics who assign 
these chapters to post-exilic authorship have 
strange ideas of contextual unity. 

One of Isaiah’s foremost theses was that 
predictive prophecy is an evidence of deity. He 
was very fond of ridiculing idols and idol- 
worshipers — these gods that the nations worship 
cannot even do what human beings can do: they 
cannot see, nor speak, nor hear. But, says Isaiah, 
our God, whom we worship in our Hebrew nation, 
not only can do what human beings can do, He can 
do some things that they cannot do: He can foretell 
things to come. Then Isaiah invites a conference of 
nations, where they can all compare their gods, and 
asks if any nation has in its literature ancient 
predictions of things that happened later. We have, 
he says, in our national literature, going back way 
into the past, a continuous stream of predictions of 

things that afterward came true. 

Isa. 46-48 THE FALL OF 

God declares, “I am God, and there is no other. . . . 
I make known the end from the beginning, from 
ancient times, what is still to come” (46:9-10). 
From the earliest chapters of Genesis, God’s Word 
unveils the entire story. Beyond the heartbreaking 
tragedy of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, 
God can see the joyous celebration of Revelation 
21 and 22. And in Revelation 22: 13, God declares, 
“I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, 
the Beginning and the End.” 

A continuation of chapters 13-14. Babylon’s 
many idols, sorcerers, and astrologers would be of 
no avail against the armies of Cyrus (47:12-15). 
Instead, the golden images of her vaunted gods, 
helpless to save not only their city but even 
themselves, would be hauled away as loot on 
beasts and in wagons (46:1-2). Isaiah reiterates 

again God’s exclusive and unique power to predict 
and control the course of history. It is a solemn 
restatement of the prediction of the fall of Babylon 
at the hands of Cyrus, and of the deliverance of the 

The Lord’s chosen ally (48: 14), that is, Cyrus, 
who was a singularly noble and just monarch. 

Isa. 49-50 THE SERVANT OF 

In the preceding chapters (40-48), a leading idea 
was that God’s predictions of the future are 
evidence of His deity. 

In chapters 49-55, the thoughts revolve around 
the Servant of God. In some passages the servant 
seems to be the nation Israel, and in other passages 
the Messiah, the One in whom Israel would be 
personified. The passages are pretty well blended 
so that the context must indicate which is meant. 

It is a resumption of thoughts that have been 
accumulating (41:8; 42:1, 19; 43:10; 44:1-2, 21; 

49:3-6; 52:13; 53:11). 

These chapters seem to be a sort of soliloquy 
of the Servant, with interspersed replies from God, 
having to do mainly with the Servant’s work of 
bringing all nations to God. 


Israel’s release from the sufferings of the exile is 
as certain as God’s wondrous works of the past. It 
is a part of God’s eternal plan, to build from one 
pair, Abraham and Sarah (51:2), a redeemed 
world of endless glory (51:6). Chapter 52 is a 
song of the day of Zion’s triumph. 


One of the best-loved chapters in all the Bible. It is 
a picture of the suffering Savior. It begins at 52: 13 

and is so vivid in detail that one would almost 
think of Isaiah as standing at the foot of the cross. It 
is so clear in his mind that he speaks of it in the 
past tense, as if it had already happened. Yet it was 
written seven centuries before Jesus’ death on 
Calvary. It cannot possibly fit any person in history 
other than Christ. 

A Summary of Isaiah’s 

Fulfilled in His Own Lifetime 

• Judah will be delivered from Syria and 
Israel (7:4-7, 16) 

• Syria and Israel will be destroyed by 
Assyria (8:4; 17:1-14) 

• Assyria will invade Judah (8:7-8) 

• Philistines will be subjugated (14:28-32) 

• Moab will be plundered (15 and 16) 

• Egypt and Ethiopia will be conquered by 

Assyria (20:4) 

• Arabia will be pillaged (21:13-17) 

• Tyre will be subdued (23:1-12) 

• Jerusalem will be delivered from Assyria 
(see under 36) 

• Hezekiah’s life will be extended 15 years 

Fulfilled After Isaiah’s Time 

• Babylonian captivity (39:5-7) 

• Babylon will be overthrown by Cyrus 

• And the Medes and Elamites (13:17; 
21:2; 48:14) 

• Babylon’s perpetual desolation (13:20- 
22 ) 

• Cyrus called by name (44:28; 45:1, 4) 

• Cyrus’s conquest of the world (41:2-3) 

• Cyrus will liberate the captives (45:13) 

• Cyrus will rebuild Jerusalem (44:28; 

• Israel will be restored (27:12-13; 48:20; 

• Israel’s religion will permeate Egypt and 
Assyria (19:18-25) 

• Israel’s religion will spread over the 
whole world (27:2-6) 

• Tyre’s captivity and restoration (23:13- 

• Edom’s perpetual desolation (34:5-17) 

About the Messiah 

• His advent (40:3-5) 

• His virgin birth (7:14) 

• Galilee will be the scene of His ministry 

• His deity and the eternity of His throne 

• His sufferings (53) 

• He will die with the wicked (53:9) 

• He will be buried with the rich (53:9) 

• The might and gentleness of His reign 


• The righteousness and blessings of His 
reign (32:1-8; 61:1-3) 

• His justice and kindness (42:3-4, 7) 

• His rule over Gentiles (2:2-3; 42:1, 6; 
49:6; 55:4-5; 56:6; 60:3-5) 

• His vast influence (49:7, 23) 

• Idols will disappear (2:18) 

• A warless world will be brought into being 
(2:4; 65:25) 

• The earth will be destroyed (24; 26:21; 

• Death will be destroyed (25:8; 26:19) 

• God’s people will be called by a new 
name (62:2; 65:15) 

• A new heaven and a new earth will be 
created (65:17; 66:22) 

• The righteous and the wicked will be 
eternally separated (66:15, 22-24) 

Isa. 54-55 ZION’S VAST 

The Servant of God, by virtue of His suffering, 
would rejuvenate Zion and lead Zion onward and 
upward to heights of endless glory. Chapter 55 is 
the Servant’s invitation to all the world to enter 
His kingdom and share His blessings. 

Isa. 56-59 SINS OF ISAIAH’S 

The sins of Isaiah’s day — the profaning of the 
Sabbath, the gluttony of Israel’s leaders, the 
widespread idolatry with its vile practices, the 
punctilious fasting while practicing flagrant 
injustice — are all surely to be avenged. 


A song of the Messianic Age, beginning at 59:20, 
picturing an era of world evangelization, blending 
into the eternal glory of heaven. Chapter 60 is one 
of the grandest chapters of the Bible. It speaks of 
how the Gentiles will bless Zion. Jesus quoted 
61 : 1-3 as referring to Himself (Luke 4:18). 

Zion will receive a new name (62:2), and 
God’s servants will be called by another name 
(65:15). Until the corning of Christ, God’s people 
were known as Jews, or Hebrews. After that they 
were called Christians. But “another name” may 
also refer to a new identity or nature, rather than to 
merely a new label. In Revelation 21:2, John 
describes one of the high points of his vision: “I 
saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming 
down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride 
beautifully dressed for her husband.” This same 
wedding imagery is used by Isaiah (62:5). 

A crown of splendor (62:3) is what the 
redeemed are to God. Although the visible church 
has been corrupted at the hands of people and has 
often been anything but a “crown of splendor,” yet 
it is true of the body of God’s faithful saints. 

Throughout eternity they will be God’s delight and 
joy (vv. 3-5). 


It is a bit puzzling to see Edom mentioned here 
(63:1-6). These two chapters, except for the first 
six verses, are in the nature of a prayer to God to 
liberate exiled Israel. The Edomites, age-old 
enemies of Judah, had allied themselves with the 
Babylonians in destroying Jerusalem (see under 
Obadiah), and may here be meant to symbolize all 
the enemies of God’s people. The bloodstained 
warrior, trampling Edom in his wrath, “mighty to 
save” Zion (63:1), is identical with Zion’s 
Redeemer of the preceding three chapters. The 
language seems to be the basis for the imagery of 
the Lord’s corning in Revelation 14 and 19:11-16. 



These two chapters are God’s answer to the exiles’ 
prayer of the previous two chapters. The prayer 
shall be answered. The faithful remnant shall be 
restored (65:8-10). New nations shall be brought 
into the fold (65:1; 66:8). All shall be called by a 
new name (65:15). They shall inherit new heavens 
and a new earth (65:17; 66:22). The faithful and 
the disobedient shall be forever separated, with 
eternal blessedness for the righteous ones, eternal 
punishment for the others (66:22-24). Jesus 
Himself endorsed these words (Mark 9:48). 
Peter’s closing message to Christians was to keep 
their eyes on the new heavens and the new earth (2 
Peter 3:10-14). The Bible reaches its final climax 
in a magnificent vision of the new heavens and the 
new earth in Revelation 21-22, which is an 
expansion of the vision of Isaiah 66. No temple or 
sacrifice, it seems, will be needed in the new 
order (66: 1-4), because “now the dwelling of God 
is with men, and he will live with them” 
(Revelation 2 1:3). 


God’s Final Effort to Save Jerusalem 

Is there no balm in Gilead? 

Is there no physician there? 

Why then is there no healing 
for the wound of my people? 

— Jeremiah 8:22 

The heart is deceitful above all things 
and beyond cure. 

Who can understand it? 

— Jeremiah 17:9 

(For the last kings of Judah, see the chapter on 2 
Chronicles .) 

Jeremiah lived about 100 years after the 

prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had saved Jerusalem from 
Assyria. Jeremiah tried to save Jerusalem from 
Babylon, but failed. 

Jeremiah lived through 40 terrible years. He 
was called to be a prophet in 626 B.c, Twenty 
years later, in 605 B.c,, Jerusalem was partly 
destroyed. It was further ruined in 597 B.c,, and 
finally burned to the ground in 586 B.c, Jeremiah 
experienced the end of the monarchy, the final 
agony of the nation of Judah. He was a pathetic, 
lonely figure, who was God’s final appeal to the 
Holy City, which had become hopelessly and 
fanatically attached to idols. Jeremiah cried out 
that if only they would repent, God would save 
them from Babylon. 

As Assyria had been the background of Isaiah’s 
ministry 150 years earlier, so Babylonia was the 
backdrop of Jeremiah’s ministry. 

The Internal Situation 

The northern kingdom, Israel, had fallen, as had 
much of Judah, the southern kingdom, which had 
suffered reverse after reverse, until Jerusalem was 

all that was left of the once great kingdom of David 
and Solomon. But still the people of Jerusalem 
ignored the continued warnings of the prophets and 
grew more and more hardened in their idolatry and 
wickedness. The hour of doom was about to strike. 

The International Situation 

A three-cornered contest for world supremacy was 
going on between Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt. 
For 300 years Assyria, in the northern Euphrates 
valley, with Nineveh as its capital, had ruled the 
world; but now it was growing weak. Babylonia, 
in the southern Euphrates valley, was becoming 
powerful. Egypt, in the Nile valley, which 1000 
years before had been a world power, was again 
becoming ambitious. At about the midpoint of 
Jeremiah’s ministry, Babylonia won the contest. It 
broke the power of Assyria (610 B.c.) and a few 
years later crushed Egypt in the battle of 
Carchemish (605 B.c.). For 70 years Babylonia 
ruled the world — the same 70 years as those of the 
exile (or Babylonian captivity) of the Jewish 

“The time is coming,” declares the Lord, 
“when I will make a new covenant 
with the house of Israel 
and with the house of Judah. . . . 

“I will put my law in their minds 
and write it on their hearts. 

I will be their God, 
and they will be my people. . . . 

“I will forgive their wickedness 
and will remember their sins no more. ” 
— Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34 

Jeremiah’s Message 

From the beginning of his ministry, 20 years before 
the issue was settled, Jeremiah insisted that 
Babylonia would be the victor. All through his 
incessant and bitter complaints over Judah’s 
wickedness, the following ideas recur again and 

1 . Judah is going to be destroyed by victorious 

2. If Judah will turn from her wickedness, 
somehow God will save her from destruction 
at the hands of Babylon. 

3. Later, when there no longer seemed to be any 
hope of Judah’s repentance, came a message 
of renewed hope: if Judah, as a matter of 
political expediency, will submit to Babylon, 
she shall be spared. 

4. Judah will be destroyed, but she shall recover 
and yet dominate the world. 

5. Babylon, the destroyer of Judah, shall herself 
be destroyed, never to rise again. 

Jeremiah’s Boldness 

Jeremiah unceasingly advised Jerusalem to 
surrender to the king of Babylon, so much so that 
his enemies accused him of being a traitor. 
Nebuchadnezzar rewarded him for giving this 
advice to his people: he not only spared his life but 
also offered him any honor he would accept, even 
a place of honor in the court at Babylon (39:12). 

But Jeremiah cried aloud, over and over, that the 
king of Babylon was committing a heinous crime in 
destroying the Lord’s people, and because of this 
crime Babylon itself would be destroyed and 
abandoned forever (see chapters 50-51). 

The Chronology of Jeremiah’s Book 

Some of Jeremiah’s messages are dated. Dates are 
found in the following verses: 

• In Josiah’s reign: 1:2; 3:6. 

• In Jehoiakim’s reign: 22:18; 25:1; 26:1; 35:1; 
36:1; 45:1. 

• In Zedekiah’s reign: 21:1; 24:1, 8; 27:3, 12; 
28:1; 29:3; 32:1; 34:2; 37:1; 38:5; 39:1; 
49:34; 51:59. 

• In Egypt: 43:7, 8; 44:1. 

This quickly shows that the book is not 
arranged in chronological order. Some late 
messages come early in the book, and some early 
messages come late in the book. These messages 
were delivered orally, and perhaps repeatedly, for 

years, possibly before Jeremiah began to write 
them. The writing of such a book was a long and 
laborious task. Parchment, made of sheep or goat 
skins, was scarce and expensive. It was made into 
a long roll and wound around a stick. This may, in 
part, account for the lack of order in Jeremiah’s 
book. After writing an incident or discourse, some 
other utterance delivered previously would be 
suggested, and he would write it down, in some 
cases without dating it, thus filling up the 
parchment as he unrolled it. 

Contemporary Prophets 

• Jeremiah was the leader among the 
brilliant constellation of prophets 
clustered around the destruction of 

• Ezekiel, a fellow priest, somewhat 
younger than Jeremiah, preached in 
Babylonia among the captives the same 

things that Jeremiah was preaching in 

• Daniel, a man of royal blood, held the 
line in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. 

• Habakkuk and Zephaniah helped 
Jeremiah in Jerusalem. 

• Nahum, at the same time, was predicting 
the fall of Nineveh. 

• Obadiah, at the same time, predicted 
the ruin of Edom. 


Jeremiah was called to a hard and thankless task. 
Like Moses (Exodus 3:11; 4:10), he was reluctant 
to accept the responsibility. The call came when he 
was “only a child,” probably about 20. 

Anathoth (v. 1), his home, was about 2 1/2 
miles northeast of Jerusalem; it is now called 


The boiling pot (v. 13; K.JY caldron) is the 
Babylonian army. The first message Jeremiah has 
to deliver is that Jerusalem will be destroyed by 
Babylonia (v. 14). 


Manasseh (698-644 B.c.) Reigned 55 years. 
Very wicked (see under 2 Chronicles 33). 
Jeremiah was born during his reign. 

Amon (643-640 B.c.) Reigned 2 years. The 
long and wicked reign of his father Manasseh 
had sealed the doom of Judah. 

Josiah (640-609 B.c.) Reigned 31 years. A 
good king, under whom a great reformation 
took place. Jeremiah began his ministry in 
Josiah’s 13th year. But the reformation had 
only outward effect; at heart the people were 
still idolaters. 

Jehoahaz (609 B.c.) Reigned 3 months. Was 
taken to Egypt. 

Jehoiakim (609-598 B.c.) Reigned 11 years. 
Openly supported idol worship. Boldly 
defiant of God and a bitter enemy of 

Jehoiachin (598-597 b.c.) Reigned 3 
months. Was taken to Babylon. 

Zedekiah (597-586 b.c.) Reigned 11 years. 
Rather friendly toward Jeremiah, but a weak 
king; a tool in the hands of his wicked 


In an impassioned rebuke for their shameless 
idolatry, Israel is compared to a wife who has left 
her husband for other men, turning herself into a 
common prostitute. 


In chapter 2, “Israel” means the whole nation. In 
this chapter it means the northern kingdom, which 
300 years before had split off from Judah and 
which had been taken away by the Assyrians a 
century ago. Judah, blind to the significance of 
Israel’s fall, not only did not repent, but under the 
wicked reign of Manasseh sunk to lower and lower 
depths of depravity. The reunion of Judah and 
Israel is predicted (vv. 17-18; also 50:4-5; Hosea 
1:11). Again the metaphor of an adulterous wife (v. 
20 ). 


This chapter describes the advance of the 
Babylonian armies that destroyed Jerusalem (605- 
586 B.c.). For some time it was thought that Judah 
suffered a Scythian invasion shortly before that of 
the Babylonians. But the passages in Jeremiah on 
the enemy “from the north” fit much better what is 

known of the Babylonians than of the wild 
Scythians from the Caucaus region: the reference to 
“an ancient and enduring nation” (5:15); the use of 
“chariots” (4:13); the army’s capture of “cities of 
Judah” (4:16; 6:6); their battle array in regular 
ranks (6:23); their love of Jerusalem (4:30). The 
Babylonians did indeed come to Judah from the 
north (see map: The Three Returns ). 


628 B.c. Josiah begins his reforms (see on 2 

Chronicles 34). 

626 B.c, Jeremiah is called by God. 

622 b.c. The Book of the Law is found. 

Josiah’s great reformation (2 Kings 22-23). 

609 B.c. Josiah is slain at Megiddo by 


612 B.c. Nineveh is destroyed by Babylonia. 

605 B.c. Judah is subdued by Babylonia. The 

first captivity. 

605 B.c. Battle of Carchemish: Babylon 

crushes Egypt. 

597 B.c, Jehoiachin is taken prisoner. 

593 B.c, Zedekiah visits Babylon. 


586 B.c. Jerusalem is burned. The temporary 
end of David’s kingdom. 


Had there been one righteous man, God would 
have spared the city (v. 1). They indulge in 
promiscuous sex like animals (vv. 7-8). They scoff 
at the prophet’s warnings (v. 12). Their lifestyle is 
one of deceit, oppression, and robbery (vv. 26- 
28). The people actually love the religious and 
political rottenness in which they live (vv. 30-31; 
for a note on false prophets [v. 30], see under 
chapter 23). 


A vivid prophetic description of the destruction of 
Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian invaders 
(vv. 22-26), which became a horrible reality in 
Jeremiah’s own lifetime. Over and over (vv. 16- 
19) he warns, with pathetic insistence, that 
repentance is their last possible chance to escape 


This is one of Jeremiah’s heartrending appeals for 
repentance, based on God’s amazing promise that 
if only the people would listen to their God, 
Jerusalem would never fall (vv. 5-7). With all 
their abominable practices (vv. 9, 31), and even 
though they had put idols in the temple (v. 30), they 
still had a superstitious regard for the temple and 
its services. They seemed to think that, come what 

may, God would not let Jerusalem be destroyed 
because His temple was there (vv. 4, 10). 

The Queen of Heaven (v. 18) is Ashtoreth, the 
principal female Canaanite deity, whose worship 
was accompanied by the most degrading forms of 

The Valley of Ben Hinnom (vv. 31-32) is the 
valley on the south side of Jerusalem. It was used 
as a trash dump and also as the place where 
children were burnt as sacrifices to the god 
Molech. (From the name Valley of Hinnom, 
ge 'hinnom, was later derived from the Greek name 
used for hell in the New Testament, gehenna .) 


Fully conscious of the futility of his appeals and 
rebukes, Jeremiah speaks of the impending 
desolation of Judah as if it were already 
accomplished (v. 20). The insistence of the false 
prophets (vv. 10-11) that Jerusalem was in no 
danger constituted one of Jeremiah’s most difficult 

problems (see under chapter 23). 


Jeremiah, a man of sorrows, in the midst of a 
people abandoned to everything vile (8:6; 9:2-9), 
wept day and night at the thought of the frightful, 
impending retribution. He moved among them, 
begging, pleading, persuading, threatening, 
entreating, imploring that they turn from their 
wickedness. But in vain. 


It seems that the threat of Babylonian invasion 
spurred the people of Judah to great activity in the 
manufacture of idols — as if idols could save them. 
This gave Jeremiah occasion to remind them that 
what they were doing, rather than helping them. 

was in fact a further aggravation of their already 
appalling sin against God. 


This chapter seems to belong to the period of 
reaction, after Josiah’s great reformation (told in 2 
Kings 23), when the people had restored their 
idols. Their response to Jeremiah’s rebuke was to 
plot his death (9:21). 



Contrasting his own sufferings with the apparent 
prosperity of those against whom he was 
preaching, and who were ridiculing his threats (v. 
4), Jeremiah complains of the ways of God. But 
there is no security in prosperity — Jeremiah’s 
opponents will be uprooted (v. 14). Then God 

gives the promise of future restoration (vv. 15-17). 


Jeremiah made considerable use of symbols in his 
preaching (see on 19:1). The linen belt (KJ\( 
girdle) was probably richly decorated, a 
conspicuous part of Jeremiah’s dress as he walked 
about the streets of Jerusalem. Later, rotted, 
ragged, and dirty, it served again to attract attention 
— of a different kind. As curious crowds gathered 
around the prophet, it gave him occasion to explain 
that Judah, with whom Jehovah had clothed 
Himself to walk among people, once beautiful and 
glorious, would like his belt be ruined and be good 
for nothing but to be thrown away. 

Jer. 14-15 JEREMIAH’S 

A prolonged drought had stripped the land of food. 

Jeremiah’s heart ached at seeing the people suffer, 
even though they hated, ridiculed, and mocked him. 
His intercession before God is as near an approach 
to the spirit of Christ as is to be found anywhere in 
the Old Testament. 


In some cases, the domestic life of the prophets 
was used to reinforce the message they preached. 
Isaiah and Hosea were married and gave their 
children names that expressed their main messages. 
Jeremiah was commanded to remain single, as a 
kind of symbolic backdrop to his persistent 
predictions of impending bloody slaughter: what is 
the use of raising a family just to be butchered in 
the frightful carnage about to be loosed upon the 
inhabitants of Judah? Again, God promises 
restoration (vv. 14-15). 


Judah’s downfall is inevitable. Yet the promise is 
held before them again and again that if only they 
turn to God, Jerusalem will remain forever (vv. 
24 - 25 ). 


A very apt illustration of God’s power to alter the 
destiny of a nation. Jeremiah used it as the basis 
for another appeal to the wicked nation to amend 
its ways. But again, it was in vain. 


It may have been a jar or vase of exquisite 
workmanship. Being shattered in the presence of 
Jerusalem’s leaders was an impressive way of 
reannouncing the impending ruin of the city. 

Some other symbols Jeremiah used to gain 

attention to his preaching were the ruined belt 
(chap. 13), abstinence from marriage (chap. 16), 
the potter’s clay (chap. 18), the yoke of straps and 
crossbars (chap. 27), and the purchase of a field 
(chap. 32). 


Jeremiah went from his vase-breaking rendezvous 
with the leaders in the Valley of Hinnom to the 
temple and began to proclaim the same message to 
the people there. For this, Pashhur, one of the chief 
officers of the temple, put him in prison. 

Stocks (v. 2) may have consisted of a wooden 
frame in which feet, neck, and hands were fastened 
so as to hold the body in a distorted and painful 
position. It drew from Jeremiah an outburst of 
complaint against God (vv. 7-18). 


This chapter belongs to the last days of Jeremiah’s 
life. King Zedekiah, frightened at the approach of 
the Babylonian army, appeals to Jeremiah to 
intercede with God. Jeremiah advises Zedekiah to 
surrender the city to the Babylonians in order to 
save the people from death. 


King of Judah in verse 2 probably refers to 
Zedekiah (see 21:3, 7; compare v. 3 with 21:12), 
the last Judean king, whose predecessors are 
mentioned in sequence later in the chapter (Josiah, 
vv. 10a, 15b— 16; Jehoahaz/Shallum, vv. 10b— 12; 
Jehoiakim, vv. 13— 1 5a, 17-19; Jehoiachin/Coniah, 
vv. 24-30). 

Jehoiachin had children (1 Chronicles 3:17; 
Matthew 1:12), but he would be as if childless — 
his children would never sit on the throne (v. 30). 
He and his uncle, Zedekiah, were the last earthly 
kings to sit on David’s throne. It was the end of the 

temporal kingdom of Judah. Yet, out of the line of 
Zedekiah would come Christ, the Messiah. 


A bitter attack on the leaders of God’s people. 
Jeremiah’s stinging indictment of Davidic kings 
supplies the backdrop for a vision of the coming 
Davidic Messiah (23:5-8; see under chapter 33). 
As for the false prophets, they were the greatest 
hindrance to the acceptance of Jeremiah’s 
preaching. In the name of God they delivered their 
own messages: “Jeremiah is lying. We are 
prophets of God, and God has told us Jerusalem is 


The good figs represented the best of the people, 
who had been taken to Babylon in Jehoiachin’s 

captivity (597 B.c.) and earlier, including Ezekiel 
and Daniel. The bad figs, those who had remained 
in Jerusalem, intended, with the aid of Egypt, to 
resist the Babylonians (2 Kings 24: 10-20). 


This was in the early part of Jehoiakim’s reign (v. 
1), about 604 B.c. The remarkable thing is that the 
exact duration of Babylonia’s rule is foretold (11— 
14; 29:10; 2 Chronicles 36:21; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 
9:2; Zechariah 7:5). An amazing prophecy. There 
was no possible way for Jeremiah to know this, 
except by direct revelation from God. 


His accusers were the priests and the false 
prophets. But Jeremiah had friends among the 
officials, especially Ahikam, who saved him from 
certain death. One of Jeremiah’s fellow prophets, 
named Uriah, did not fare so well, however (vv. 

Jer. 27-28 A YOKE OF STRAPS 

Jeremiah put a yoke, like that worn by oxen, on his 
neck and walked around the city, saying, “Thus 
shall Babylon put a yoke on the necks of this 
people.” One of the false prophets, Hananiah, with 
brazen impudence, broke the yoke (28:10); as a 
punishment, he died within two months (28:1, 17). 


Written after Jehoiachin and the cream of the 

people had been taken to Babylonia. Jeremiah 
advises them to be peaceful and obedient captives, 
and promises that they will return to their 
homeland after 70 years (v. 10). But even in 
Babylonia the false prophets kept up their fight 
against Jeremiah (w. 2 1-32). 

Jer. 30-31 A SONG OF 

A song of restoration for both Israel and Judah, 
with messianic foreshadowings. God commanded 
that it be written (v. 2) so that later, after the events 
had taken place, they could be compared with the 
prophecies in this song. 

The new covenant (31:31-34). The Old 
Testament is the story of God’s dealings with the 
Hebrew nation on the basis of the covenant given 
at Mount Sinai. Here is a definite prediction that 
the Mosaic covenant would be superseded by 
another covenant. The displacement of the Mosaic 
covenant by the new covenant in Christ is the main 

thesis of the epistle to the Hebrews. 


This was the year before Jerusalem fell. The 
burning of the city and the desolation of Judah 
were almost at hand. Amid the gloom and despair 
of the hour, Jeremiah was commanded of God to 
buy a field, in public ceremony, and put away the 
deed for safekeeping, to emphasize his prediction 
that the captives would return and the land would 
once again be cultivated. 

Jer. 33 “THE BRANCH” 

Most of the 20 Davidic kings who reigned over 
Judah during the 400 years between David and the 
Babylonian exile were very bad. Only a few were 
worthy of the name of David. In chapters 22-23 
Jeremiah bitterly indicts this royal dynasty to 

whom God had given the promise of an eternal 
throne. Here in chapter 33 he repeats with a fuller 
explanation the prophecy of one great King, “the 
Branch,” in whom the promise would be fulfilled. 



During the siege of Jerusalem, King Zedekiah 
proclaimed freedom to all slaves, evidently to gain 
God’s favor; but he failed to enforce his own 


“Lachish Letters.” In Jeremiah 34:7, Lachish 
and Azekah are mentioned as being besieged by the 
king of Babylonia. Fragments of 2 1 letters, written 
during this siege, from an outpost of Lachish to the 
captain of the guard who was defending Lachish, 
were found in 1935. 

These letters were written just before 
Nebuchadnezzar launched his final attack by 

kindling fires against the city walls. They were 
found in a deposit of ash and charcoal on the floor 
of the guardroom. 

In one of the letters, the outpost says that he 
was “watching for signals from Lachish,” and that 
“he could see no signals from Azekah” (perhaps it 
had already fallen). 

Evidently the letter indicates that someone in 
the Hill Country was looking for signal fires from 
either Lachish or Azekah to indicate the progress 
of the Babylonian advance. Such a lookout point 
exists a few miles east of Lachish, at the western 
edge of the hill country. 


The Recabites were a tribe, descended from 
Recab, who are mentioned during the time of 
Moses (1 Chronicles 2:55; Numbers 10:29-32; 
Judges 1:16). They had adhered to their ancestor’s 
command to drink no wine (2 Kings 10:15, 23) and 

were held up by Jeremiah in stinging contrast to the 
disobedient citizens of Jerusalem. 


At this time Jeremiah had been prophesying for 23 
years, from the 13th year of Josiah to the 4th year 
of Jehoiakim. He is now commanded to gather 
these prophecies into a book so that they can be 
read to the people, because Jeremiah himself is not 
free to speak to the people (v. 5). It took a year or 
so to write the book (vv. 1,9). The reading of the 
book made a profound impression on some of the 
officials, but the king brazenly and defiantly burned 
the book. Jeremiah then wrote it all over again. 

Jer. 37-38 JEREMIAH’S 

During the siege, when the Babylonians had 

temporarily withdrawn, Jeremiah attempted to 
leave the city to go to his home in Anathoth, 
probably because of the scarcity of food in 
Jerusalem. Because of his persistent advice to 
surrender to the king of Babylon, this looked to his 
enemies as if it might be an effort to join the 
Babylonians. Thus he was imprisoned on suspicion 
of being a traitor who worked in the interest of the 
Babylonians. Zedekiah was friendly to Jeremiah, 
but he was a weak king. 


This event is told also in chapter 52, in 2 Kings 25 
(see note there), and in 2 Chronicles 36. 
Nebuchadnezzar, knowing of Jeremiah’s lifelong 
admonishing Jerusalem to submit to him, now 
offered to confer on Jeremiah any honor that he 
would accept, even a place at the Babylonian court 
(11-14; 40: 1-6). 


Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed 
governor over Judah, was the son of Ahikam, 
Jeremiah’s friend (40:5; 26:24). But within three 
months he was assassinated (39:2;41:1). 

Seal. In 1935, in the layer of ashes left by 
Nebuchadnezzar’s fire when he burned Lachish, a 
seal was found among the “Lachish Letters” 
bearing this inscription, “Belonging to Gedaliah, 
the one who is over the house.” 

Jaazaniah’s (Jezaniah’s) Seal. Mentioned in 
Jeremiah 40:8 and 2 Kings 25:23, Jaazaniah was 
one of Gedaliah’s army captains. In 1932, in the 
ruins of Mizpah, the seat of Gedaliah’s government 
(Jeremiah 40:6), an exquisite agate seal was found 
with the representation of a fighting cock 
inscribed, “Belonging to Jaazaniah, servant of the 



The remnant, fearing reprisal by Nebuchadnezzar 
for the slaying of Gedaliah, fled to Egypt, though 
explicitly warned of God that it would mean 
extinction. They took Jeremiah along. 


The site of Tahpanhes (43:8-13) has been 
identified about 10 miles west of the Suez Canal. It 
was a fortress city on the northern border of Lower 
Egypt that guarded the road to Syria. In 1886 Sir 
Flinders Petrie uncovered the ruins of a large 
castle, in front of which was a “great open 
platform of brick work,” which may have been the 
very place where Jeremiah hid the stones (43:8). 

Nebuchadnezzar’s annals state that he did 
invade Egypt in 568 B.c,, which was 18 years after 
Jeremiah uttered the prophecy that he would 


Thus, Abraham’s descendants returned to Egypt 
as a defeated and hopeless remnant nearly 900 
years after they had been liberated from Egypt by 
God’s mighty hand in the Exodus. 


This last effort to induce the people to abandon 
their idolatry failed. They were defiant. 

Queen of Heaven (v. 17) was a Babylonian 
title for Ishtar, whose worship involved acts of 
immorality; the women hid themselves behind their 
husbands’ consent, which was required for the 
women’s religious vows to have validity (vv. 15, 

The place and manner of Jeremiah’s death are 
not known. One tradition is that he was stoned to 
death in Egypt. Another is that he was taken from 
Egypt to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, along with 
Baruch, his secretary, and died there. 

Jer. 45 BARUCH 

Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary (scribe), was a man 
of prominence, with high ambitions (v. 5). He was 
recognized as having great influence with Jeremiah 
(43:3). He is reminded that earthly recognition 
provides only an illusion of self-worth — it dies 
with the people who bestow it. 

Jer. 46 EGYPT 

A description of the defeat of the Egyptian army at 
Carchemish (605 B.c.), in the middle period of 
Jeremiah’s life (vv. 1-12); and a later prophecy 
that Nebuchadnezzar will invade Egypt (vv. 13-26; 
see under 43:8-13, of which these verses are an 
expansion). More than a century before, Isaiah had 
prophesied the Assyrian invasions of Egypt (see 
under Isaiah 18-20). Ezekiel also prophesied 
about Egypt (Ezekiel 19-32). 


This prophecy, foretelling the desolation of 
Philistia by Babylon, was fulfilled 20 years later 
when Nebuchadnezzar took Judah. Other prophets 
who spoke about and against the Philistines were 
Isaiah (14:28-32), Amos (1:6-8), Ezekiel (25:15- 
17), Zephaniah (2:4-7), and Zechariah (9: 1-7). 

Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning Memphis (46:19) came true. 
About all that remains of the once-great city of Memphis in 
Egypt are an alabaster sphinx and a rather shabby-looking, 
giant statue of Pharaoh Rameses II. 

Jer. 48 MOAB 

A picture of the impending desolation of Moab. 
Moab helped Nebuchadnezzar against Judah, but 
later was devastated by him (582 B.c.). For 
centuries the land has lain desolate and sparsely 

inhabited, the ruins of its many cities testifying to 
its population in ancient times. Its restoration (v. 
47) and that of Ammon (49:6) may have been 
fulfilled in their absorption into the general Arab 
race, some of whom were present at Pentecost 
when the Gospel was first proclaimed to the world 
(Acts 2:11). Or it may mean that the land will yet 
again be prosperous. Other prophecies about Moab 
are Isaiah 15-16; Ezekiel 25:8-11; Amos 2:1-3; 
and Zephani ah 2:8-11. 


A prediction that Nebuchadnezzar will conquer 
these nations, which he did. Ammon, see under 
Ezekiel 25: 1—11. Edom, see under Obadiah. 


The fall and permanent destruction of Babylon are 
here predicted, as Isaiah had done earlier (Isaiah 
13:17-22), in language matching the grandeur of 
the theme (51:37-43). The Medes, at the head of a 
league of nations, are named as the conquerors 
(50:9; 51:11, 27-28). These two chapters, 
pronouncing the doom of Babylonia, were copied 
in a separate book and sent to Babylon in a 
deputation headed by King Zedekiah, seven years 
before Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem (5 1:59— 
64). The book was to be read publicly and then, in 
solemn ceremony, s u nk in the Euphrates, with the 
words, “So will Babylon sink to rise no more.” 

(SEE ON 2 KINGS 24-25.) 

Seals and Bullae. A seal was a device in which 
a design or name is engraved, so that when it is 

pressed into a soft substance such as clay or wax, 
it will leave a permanent impression when the 
substance hardens. The impression made by a seal 
is called a bulla (plural bullae). Some seals were 
flat; others were cylindrical and were rolled into 
the wax or clay. 

Seals were used as a mark of authenticity on 
letters and official documents (1 Kings 21:8; 
Esther 3: 12); as a means to keep a book, document, 
or room from being tampered with (similar to our 
“sealing” court documents or a crime scene; 
Jeremiah 32: 14); as a proof of delegated authority 
(Esther 3:10; 8:2); and as an official mark of 
ownership, for example, on jar handles and jar 

“Seal” is also used figuratively — for example, 
in Deuteronomy 32:34; Romans 4:11; 15:28; 1 
Corinthians 9:2; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; Revelation 
5:1; 7:2-4; 10:4. 

Numerous seals and bullae have been found 
that date back to the Old Testament era; a number 
of these actually belonged to people mentioned in 
the Old Testament. 

The seal of Seriah son of Neriah, who was 
commanded by Jeremiah to take a scroll of 
Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning Babylon to 
Babylon (Jeremiah 51:59-64), is known to 
exist in a private collection. It reads: 
“Belonging to Seriah [son of] Neriyahu.” 

An impression has been found of the seal that 
actually belonged to Jeremiah’s scribe, 
Baruch. The inscription on the bulla contains 
a longer form (“Berechiah”) of the name 
Baruch. It reads: “Belonging to Berechiah son 
of Neriah the scribe.” See Jeremiah 32:12; 
34: 1-7; and chapters 36 and 45. 

An impression of the seal of the very person 
commanded to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah 
has been found. It reads: “Belonging to 
Jerahmeel the king’s son” — see Jeremiah 
36:26: “Instead, the king commanded 

Jerahmeel, a son of the king ... to arrest 
Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. 
But the Lord had hidden them” 

An impression of the seal of “Gemariah son 
of Shaphan the secretary” (Jeremiah 36:10), 

the one in whose room Baruch read the words 
of Jeremiah from the scroll to the people, was 
found by Yigal Shiloh in his excavations in 
the City of David. It reads: “Belonging to 
Gemaryahu, son of Shaphan.” 

A seal impression was found at Tell el- 
Umeiri in Jordan, east of the Dead Sea, from 
the early 6th century B.c. It reads: “Belonging 
to Milkom’ur, servant of Baalyasha.” This 
Baalyasha is probably to be identified with 
“Baalis the king of the sons of Ammon,” 
mentioned in Jeremiah 40: 14. 

Recently the actual seal of “Ba’alis, king of 
the sons of Ammon” has come to light — the 
very king who plotted the murder of Gedaliah 
(Jeremiah 40: 13-41 : 2). 


A Lament over the Desolation of 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not 

for his compassions never fail. 

They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in 

to the one who seeks him; 
it is good to wait quietly 
for the salvation of the Lord. 

— Lamentations 3:22-23, 25-26 

This short book is Jeremiah’s lament over the city 
he had done his best to save. Yet, in his sorrow he 
also expresses his faith that Jerusalem will rise 
again from its ruins (3:21, 31-32). Jerusalem did 
indeed rise and gave its name to the capital of a 
redeemed world of eternal glory, the New 
Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 2 1:2). 

An Appendix to Jeremiah 

The last chapter of Jeremiah should be read as an 
introduction to this book. The Septuagint adds the 
introduction, “And it came to pass, after Israel was 
led into captivity and Jerusalem was laid waste, 
that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this 
lamentation over Jerusalem, and said. . . .” 

But unlike our Bible, the Hebrew Old 
Testament does not put Lamentations immediately 
after Jeremiah, but rather in a group of books 
called the Ketubim or Writings, to which belong 
the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, 
Ecclesiastes, and Esther. These were on separate 
rolls because they were read at different feasts. To 
this day, the book of Lamentations is read in 

synagogues throughout the world, wherever there 
are Jews, on the ninth day of the fourth month, the 
day of fasting that commemorates the fall of the 
temple (Jeremiah 52:6). 

An Acrostic 

The book consists of five poems, four of which are 
acrostics — that is, each verse begins with a 
different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in 
alphabetic sequence. This was a favorite form of 
Hebrew poetry, adopted in part as an aid to 
memory. In chapters 1, 2, and 4 there is one verse 
for each letter, or 22 verses per chapter, since the 
Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. Chapter 3 has 
three verses per letter, and thus 66 verses in all. 
Chapter 5 has 22 verses, but not in alphabetic 
order. (See also the chapter on “Poetry and 
Wisdom: Job-Song of Songs” . I 

Its Immediate Use 

The book must have been composed in the three 
months between the burning of Jerusalem and the 
departure of the remnant to Egypt (Jeremiah 39:2; 

41:1, 18; 43:7). During this time the seat of 
government was at Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:8). 
Probably a number of copies were made; some 
were taken to Egypt, others sent to Babylon for the 
exiles to memorize and sing. 


It is not easy to define the subject of each chapter. 
The same ideas, in different wording, run through 
all the chapters: the horrors of the siege and the 
desolate ruins, all due to Zion’s sins. Jeremiah, 
stunned, dazed, and heartbroken, weeps with 
inconsolable grief. The emphasis in this chapter is 
that the people brought the catastrophe upon 
themselves by their sins (5, 8-9, 14, 18, 20, 22). 


The devastation of Jerusalem is attributed to the 
anger of God (1-4, 6, 21-22). Jerusalem, situated 

on a mountain and surrounded by yet higher 
mountains, was because of its location the most 
beautiful city then known, “the perfection of 
beauty” (v. 15), even when compared with 
Babylon, Nineveh, Thebes, and Memphis, which 
were built on river plains. Moreover, it was the 
city of God’s special care, chosen by Him for a 
unique mission — to be the main channel for God’s 
dealings with people. It was the most favored and 
highly privileged city in all the world, beloved of 
God in an exceptional way and under His special 
protection. Moreover, it was so well fortified that 
it was generally believed to be impregnable 
(4:12). But this City of God had become worse 
than Sodom (4:6). That the God of love is also a 
God of wrath is a teaching that is stated and 
illustrated again and again throughout the Bible. 


In this chapter Jeremiah seems to be complaining 
that God has ignored him and his prayers (v. 8): 

“You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no 
prayer can get through” (v. 44). Though 

complaining, he justifies God, acknowledging that 
they deserved worse (v. 22). The high point of the 
book is verses 21-39. 


Jeremiah could not keep his mind off the horrors of 
the siege, the cries of starving children (2:11-12, 
19; 4:4), women who boiled their babies for food 
(2:20; 4: 10). 

But in spite of its horrible sufferings, 
Jerusalem failed to learn its lesson. After the exile 
it was rebuilt, and in Jesus’ day it had again 
become a great and beautiful city. Yet they 
crucified the Son of God, after which followed its 
eradication by the armies of Rome in a.d. 70. (See 
under Hebrews 13.) 


The Fall of Jerusalem 
Judgments on Surrounding Nations 
The Restoration of Israel 

“When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will 
surely die, ’ and you do not warn him or 
speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways 
in order to save his life, that wicked man 
will die for his sin, and I will hold you 
accountable for his blood. But if you do 
warn the wicked man and he does not turn 
from his wickedness or from his evil ways, 
he will die for his sin; but you will have 
saved yourself ” 

-Ezekiel 3 : 18-19 

Ezekiel was a prophet of the Babylonian captivity 
(or exile). He was taken to Babylon in 597 B.c., 11 
years before Jerusalem was destroyed and the 
southern kingdom, Judah, ceased to exist. 

The northern kingdom, Israel, had been taken 
into exile by the Assyrians 120 years earlier. This 
had happened in three stages, of which especially 
the last one should have been a warning to Judah: 
734 B.c. Galilee and northern and eastern 
Israel are overrun by Tiglath-pileser. 

722 B.c. Samaria and the rest of Israel are 
captured by Sargon. 

701 B.c, 200,000 of the inhabitants of Judah 
are taken into exile by Sennacherib. 

The Babylonian exile of Judah also took place 
in three stages: 

605 B.c, Some captives are taken to 
Babylon, including Daniel. 

597 B.c, More captives are taken to Babylon, 
including Ezekiel. 

586 B.c, Jerusalem is burned. 

The Babylonian exile lasted 70 years, from 
605 to 535 B.c, Ezekiel was in Babylon from 597 

until at least 570 B.c. 

Ezekiel and Daniel 

Daniel had been in Babylon for nine years and had 
already attained to great fame when Ezekiel 
arrived (14:14, 20). Daniel lived and worked in 
the palace, Ezekiel in the country. 

Ezekiel and Jeremiah 

Jeremiah was the older of the two. Ezekiel may 
have been his pupil. Ezekiel preached the same 
things among the exiles that Jeremiah was 
preaching in Jerusalem: the certainty of Judah’s 
punishment for her sins. 

Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation 

Some of Ezekiel’s visions reappear in the book of 

• The cherubim (Ezekiel 1 ; Revelation 4) 

• Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38; Revelation 20) 

• Eating the book (Ezekiel 3; Revelation 10) 

• The New Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40-48; 
Revelation 21) 

• The river of the water of life (Ezekiel 47; 
Revelation 22) 

“They Will Know That I Am the Lord” 

This expression is a dominant note of the book. It 
occurs 62 times, in 27 of the 48 chapters (6:7, 10, 

13, 14; 7:4, 9, 27; 11:10, 12; 12:15, 16, 20; 13:9, 

14, 21; 14:8; 15:7; 16:62; 17:21, 24; 20:12, 20, 
28, 38, 42, 44; 21:5; 22:16, 22; 23:49; 24:24, 27; 
25:5, 7, 11, 17; 26:6; 28:22, 23, 24, 26; 29:6, 9, 
16, 21; 30:8, 19, 25, 26; 32:15; 33:29; 34:27, 30; 
35:4, 9, 12, 15; 36:11, 23, 36, 38; 37:6, 13, 14, 28; 
38:16, 23; 39:6, 7, 22, 23,28). 

Ezekiel’s mission appears to have been to 
explain why God caused or permitted Judah’s 
captivity. It was because of the unspeakable 
abominations of which they had been guilty — 
abominations for which other nations had been 
wiped out. But for Judah, it was punishment for the 
sake of correction: through their punishment they 
would come to know that God is God. They did. 
The Babylonian captivity cured the Jews of their 

The Chronology of Ezekiel’s Book 

The pivot around which the book revolves is the 
destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 586 
B.c. Ezekiel’s prophecies began six years before 
that and continued for 16 years thereafter, covering 
a period of 22 years. Until the fall of Jerusalem, 
Ezekiel was constantly predicting the certainty of 
its fall (chaps. 1-24). After that, his prophecies 
deal with the overthrow of surrounding nations 
(chaps. 25-32) and the reestablishment and 
glorious future of Israel (chaps. 33-48). 

His visions, with minor exceptions, are 
presented in chronological sequence. The years are 
dated from King Jehoiachin’s captivity, which was 
597 B.c. 

The thirtieth year (1:1), which was the 
equivalent of the fifth year of the exile of King 
Jehoiachin (1:2), is thought to have been the 30th 
year of Ezekiel’s life — the age at which Levites 
began their service (Numbers 4:3; Jesus and John 
the Baptist both began their work at age 30). Or, it 
may have been the 30th year in the Babylonian 

calendar, which began with the year in which 
Nebopolasar won Babylonia’s independence from 
Assyria (625 B.c,). 

The dates of Ezekiel’s visions are as follows: 
Chapter 1:2 
5th year 
4th month 
5 th day 

July 31, 593 b.c. 

First vision 
Chapter 8: 1 
6th year 
6th month 
5 th day 

Sept. 17, 592 b.c. 

Transport to Jerusalem 
Chapter 20: 1 
7th year 
5 th month 
10th day 

Aug. 14, 591 B.c. 

Israel’s history 
Chapter 24: 1 

9th year 
10th month 
10th day 
Jan. 15, 588 B.c, 

The siege begins (2 Kings 25:1) 

The siege of Jerusalem began in the 9th year, in 
the 10th month, on the 10th day. 

Chapter 26: 1 
11th year 
1st day 

Apr. 23, 5 87- Apr. 13, 586 b.c. 

Against Tyre 
Chapter 29: 1 
10th year 
10th month 
12 th day 
Jan. 7, 587 b.c. 

Against Egypt 
Chapter 29:17 
27th year 
1st month 
1st day 

Apr. 26, 571 b.c. 

Egypt in exchange for Tyre 
Chapter 30:20 
11th year 
1st month 
7 th day 

Apr. 29, 587 B.c. 

Against Pharaoh 
Chapter 31:1 
12th year 
12 th month 
1st day 

June 21, 585 b.c. 

Against Pharaoh 

Jerusalem fell in the 11th year, in the 4th month, 
on the 9th day. 

Chapter 32:1 
12th year 
12 th month 
1st day 

March 3, 585 b.c. 

Lament over Pharaoh 
Chapter 32:17 
12 th year 

15 th day 

Apr. 13, 5 86- Apr. 1, 585 B.c, 

Egypt is dead 
Chapter 33:21 
12th year 
10th month 
5 th day 
585 B.c, 

The first fugitive arrives 

Chapter 40: 1 

25th year 

lst(?) month 

10th day 

573 B.c. 

Vision of the future 

Since Ezekiel was so meticulous in dating his 
visions, down to the exact day, it is assumed that 
all that comes after a given date belongs to that 
date until the next date is mentioned. 

Ezek. 1:1-3 EZEKIEL’S HOME 


Ezekiel was taken captive with King Jehoiachin 
(597 B.c.) and speaks of “our exile” (33:21; 40:1). 
He had a wife (24:15-18) and a home (8:1). He 
lived by the River Kebar, the great ship canal that 
branched off from the Euphrates north of Babylon 
and ran through Nippur back to the Euphrates. 
Nippur, about 50 miles southeast of Babylon, was 
Calneh, one of the cities Nimrod had built 
(Genesis 10:10). Tel Abib seems to have been 
Ezekiel’s hometown (3:15, 24), and it is thought to 
have been near Nippur. 

The conditions of the Jews in the Babylonian 
exile were relatively mild. They were placed in a 
specific location — Tel Aviv or Tel Abib — but they 
appear to have been allowed to travel freely in the 
country and to engage in commerce. They were 
regarded more as colonists than as slaves. 

Son of Man is how Ezekiel is addressed 90 
times. In Daniel 7:13 this title is used of the 
Messiah. It was the title by which Jesus commonly 
spoke of Himself (see under John 1 : 14). 

Visions and symbolic actions are characteristic 
of Ezekiel’s book. Some of his symbolic actions 
were accompanied by painful personal sufferings. 
He had to remain silent for a long period (3:26; 
24:27; 33:22). He had to lie on his side in one 
position for over a year (4:5-6). He had to eat 
food cooked over cow manure (4:15). And his 
wife, whom he dearly loved (“the delight of your 
eyes”) was suddenly taken from him, but he was 
not allowed to mourn (24: 16-18). 

Ezek. 1:4-28 EZEKIEL’S VISION 

The “living creatures” are identified as cherubim 
(10:20). They stood, one in the middle of each side 
of a square, their outspread wings touching at the 
corners of the square. Each cherub had four faces: 
the face of a man, looking outward from the square; 
on his right, the face of a lion; on his left, the face 
of an ox; in the rear, looking toward the center of 
the square, the face of an eagle. There were four 

immense whirling wheels (10:6), one beside each 
cherub. The wheels “sparkled like chrysolite,” and 
their rims were full of eyes. This fourfold living 
creature moved like flashes of lightning from place 
to place, with noise like the roar of the ocean. 

Above the living creatures was a crystal 
platform, and on the platform, a throne of blue 
sapphire. The whole vision was set within a vast 
storm cloud, with whirling flashes of fire. This 
was the form in which God appeared to Ezekiel. It 
signified His glory, power, omniscience, 
omnipresence, omnipotence, sovereignty, majesty, 
and holiness. 

Cherubini guarded the entrance to the tree of 
life (Genesis 3:24). Likenesses of cherubim were 
placed on the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25: 18- 
20) and embroidered on the curtain of the 
tabernacle (Exodus 26:31). They were reproduced 
in olive wood in the temple (1 Kings 6:23, 29; 2 
Chronicles 3:14). They are interwoven in biblical 
thought from the beginning as angelic attendants of 
God. In Revelation (4:6-7; 5:6; 6:1, 6; 7:11; 14:3; 
15:7; 19:4), they are intimately connected with the 

unfolding of the last things. 

Ezek. 2-3 EZEKIEL’S 

Ezekiel is warned at the outset that he is being 
called to a life of hardship and persecution. His 
message is delivered to him from God in the form 
of a book, which he is commanded to eat (this also 
happened to the apostle John in Revelation 10:9). 
In his mouth the book was “sweet,” which seems to 
mean that he found joy in being God’s messenger, 
though the message was a message of woe. Eating 
the book, whether literally or only in a vision, 
signified thoroughly digesting its contents so that 
its message would become a part of himself. In 
3:17-21 God seemed to lay upon Ezekiel the 
responsibility for the doom of his nation, which he 
could escape only by a faithful declaration of 
God’s message. He was also warned that God 
would, at times, impose silence upon him (3:26; 
24:27; 33:22); this was a caution to Ezekiel to 

speak not his own ideas, but only what God 


Ezekiel’s opening message to the exiles, who were 
hoping for a speedy return to Jerusalem, was this 
graphic warning that Jerusalem was about to be 
destroyed, that they would soon be joined by other 
exiles, and that their exile would last at least 40 
years. The number 40 may be meant as a round 
number denoting a generation. At this time (592 
b.c.) some of the captives had already been there 
13 years. In six more years, Jerusalem was burned. 
From that point on, the captivity lasted 50 years, 
586-536 b.c. 

Although the basic meaning of this section is 
clear, the numbers have given rise to many 
explanations. Certain things are plain: each day 
represented a year, and the years signified a period 
during which God’s people would receive 

discipline. Some understand the numbers as 
referring to Israel’s stay in Egypt (390 years) and 
the wilderness wanderings (40 years); these 
numbers, then, are symbolic rather than actual and 
warn of a time of captivity similar to that in Egypt, 
though not necessarily of the same length. 

Normally the numbers would be taken as 
periods of time separated into two distinct and 
successive intervals. Ezekiel’s reference point for 
chronological purposes was King Jehoiachin’s 
deportation in 597 B.c, This would therefore 
appear to be the natural starting point for 
measuring the time periods in these verses. The 
430 years would denote the punishment inflicted 
by conquering foreign powers on the children of 
Israel and Judah from the deportation of 
Jehoiachin, their recognized king, to the inception 
of the Maccabean rebellion in 167 B.c, During the 
Maccabean period the Jews once again were in 
charge in Judah. Though this is a possible solution, 
we must avoid being dogmatic about these 

As a sign of famine, Ezekiel lived on bread 

baked on excrement. Throughout the siege he lay 
on one side, either continuously or for the greater 
part of each day, which, combined with the famine 
rations he was allowed to eat each day, meant 
great discomfort. 

Chapter 5. When the siege is finished, he is 
commanded, as a further symbol of the fate of 
Jerusalem’s inhabitants, to shave off his hair, burn 
part of it, and scatter the rest to the winds. 

Chapters 6-7, A sort of dirge over the 
destruction and desolation of the land of Israel; the 
main point is that the Jews would, by this terrible 
punishment, come to know that God is God. 


In September of 592 B.c., a year and two months 
after his call, Ezekiel was transported in a vision 
to Jerusalem, where God showed him the 
abhorrent idolatries that were being practiced in 
the temple. The “idol that provokes jealousy” (8:3) 

probably was Asherah, a Canaanite fertility 
goddess. Secret animal worship (8:10) was 
probably an Egyptian cult. It was led by Jaazaniah 
II, whose father Shaphan had been a leader in 
Josiah’s reformation (2 Kings 22:8) and whose 
brothers Ahikam and Gemariah were Jeremiah’s 
close friends (Jeremiah 26:24; 36:10, 25), even 
while Jeremiah himself was crying out in horror at 
the sacrilege. 

This is the only biblical reference to the 
Babylonian fertility god Tammuz. It is possible 
that the women of Jerusalem were bewailing his 
dying, which they felt caused the annual wilting of 
vegetation. The date of this vision was in the 
months of August/September. This month later 
became known in the Hebrew calendar as the 
month of Tammuz (see Jewish Calendar ). 

Thus, in spite of warning after warning and 
punishment after punishment, the once powerful 
kingdom of Judah, reduced now almost to the point 
of extinction, was still sinking lower and lower 
into the depths of idolatrous infamy — a stench no 
longer to be endured by God. 

Chapter 9. A vision of the slaughter of 
Jerusalem’s idolaters, except for the faithful who 
bore the mark of the angel-scribe (vv. 3-4; similar 
to Revelation 14:1, where the 144,000 have their 
Father’s name written in their foreheads). 

Chapter 10. Reappearance of the cherubim of 
chapter 1, now to oversee the destruction and 
slaughter of Jerusalem. 

Chapter 11. A vision of the future restoration 
of the exiles, humbled, purified, and cured of 
idolatry (vv. 10, 12). 

His mission completed, Ezekiel is taken back 
to his home in exile to tell the exiles everything he 
had seen (8:1; 11:25). 


Another symbolic action to emphasize Jerusalem’s 
impending exile. Here is an amazingly detailed 
prophecy of Zedekiah’s fate: his secret flight, his 
capture, and his removal to Babylon without seeing 

it (vv. 10, 12-13). Five years later, it happened: 
Zedekiah attempted a secret escape, was captured, 
had his eyes put out, and was taken to Babylon 
(Jeremiah 52:7-11). 


There were many false prophets, both in Jerusalem 
and among the exiles. The charms (v. 18) and veils 
(vv. 18, 21) must have been used in some sort of 
magical rite. The Bible avoids explicit 
descriptions of the occult. 


To a delegation of idol lovers, God’s answer is not 
words but the swift and terrible destruction of 
idolatrous Israel. It may be that for Daniel’s sake 
Nebuchadnezzar had spared Jerusalem thus far (v. 
14), but it is now to be spared no longer. 


A vine that does not produce Suit is utterly useless, 
since its wood cannot be used for anything except 
as fuel. In the same way, Jerusalem was no longer 
fit for anything but burning. 


This chapter is a very graphic and vivid portrayal 
of Israel’s idolatry under the image of a bride, 
loved by her husband, who made her a queen and 
lavished upon her silks and sealskins and every 
beautiful thing, but who then made herself a 
prostitute to every man that passed by, outdoing 
even Sodom and Samaria in wickedness. (See 
Jeremiah 1-2.) 


The first eagle (v. 3) was the king of Babylon. The 
“topmost shoot” (v. 4) was Jehoiachin, who was 
taken to Babylon (2 Kings 24:11-16) six years 
before this parable was uttered. The “seed of the 
land” (vv. 5, 13) was Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17). 

The other eagle (v. 7) was the king of Egypt, 
toward whom Zedekiah looked for help. For his 
treachery, Zedekiah will be taken to Babylon, to be 
punished and to die there (v. 13-21; this is a 
repetition of what Ezekiel had previously 
prophesied, 12:10-16). This happened five years 
later (2 Kings 25:6-7). The “tender sprig” (vv. 
22-24), which God would later plant in the 
restored royal family of David, had its fulfillment 
in the Messiah. 



Much is said in the Prophets about the fact that 
Israel’s exile was the result of the cumulative sins 
of earlier generations. The generation of the exile, 
overlooking the fact that they were “worse than 
their fathers,” was now trying to lay all the blame 
on their fathers. The burden of this chapter is that 
God judges every individual on the basis of his or 
her own individual and personal conduct. It is an 
impassioned appeal to the wicked to repent (vv. 


Under the imagery of a lioness, David’s family, 
once great and powerful, is now overthrown. The 
first cub (v. 3) was Jehoahaz (Shallum), who was 
taken to Egypt (2 Kings 23:31-34). The second 
cub (v. 5) was either Jehoiachin or Zedekiah, both 
of whom were taken to Babylon (1 Kings 24:8- 



Generation after generation Israel had wallowed in 
the filth of idol worship. But note the prophecy of 
restoration (see also chapter 37). 

Ezek. 21 THE SWORD OF 

The sword is about to be drawn against Jerusalem 
and Ammon. 

The south (20:46) is the land of Judah. 

Until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs 

(21:27): “it” is the overturning of Zedekiah’s 
throne (vv. 25-27). This will be the end of David’s 
kingdom until the corning of the Messiah (34:23- 
24; 37:24; Jeremiah 23:5-6). 

Ezek. 22 THE SINS OF 

Over and over Ezekiel names the sins of 
Jerusalem: she defiles herself with idols, sheds 
blood, profanes the Sabbath, practices robbery, 
commits promiscuous adultery; and the princes, 
priests, and prophets are greedy for dishonest gain. 

Ezek. 23 OHOLAH AND 

Two sisters, insatiable in their lewdness, are a 
parable of Israel’s idolatry. Oholah is Samaria; 
Oholibah, Jerusalem. Both have grown old in their 
adulteries. Again and again the relationship 
between husband and wife is used to represent the 
relationship between God and his people (see 
under chapter 16). Promiscuous adultery must have 
been very widespread (16:32; 18:6, 11, 15; 22:11; 

23:43; Jeremiah 5:7-8; 7:9; 9:2; 23:10, 14; 29:23). 


The cooking pot is symbolic of the destruction of 
Jerusalem, which is very near. The rust on the pot 
represents the bloodshed and immorality of the 

The death of Ezekiel's wife (vv. 15-24) 
occurred on the day the siege of Jerusalem began 
(vv. 1, 18; 2 Kings 25:1). It is a heartrending sign 
to the exiles that their beloved Jerusalem was now 
to be taken from them. Silence was imposed on 
Ezekiel until news came, three years later, that the 
city had fallen (v. 27; 33:21-22). 

Ezek. 25 AMMON, MOAB, 

These four nations were Judah’s closest neighbors, 
who rejoiced at Judah’s destruction by Babylon. 

Ezekiel here predicts for them the same fate, as did 
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:1-7). Nebuchadnezzar 
subdued the Philistines when he took Judah, and 
four years later he invaded Ammon, Moab, and 

Ezek. 26-28 TYRE. VISIONS OF 

586 b.c. 

These visions of the doom of Tyre were given to 
Ezekiel in the same year that Jerusalem fell, that is, 
the 11th year (26:1). 

Chapter 26. A prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s 
siege and Tyre’s permanent desolation. The 
following year, in 585 B.c,, Nebuchadnezzar laid 
siege to Tyre. It took him 13 years to conquer the 

Tyre, located 12 miles north of the Israeli- 
Lebanese border, was a double city; part of it was 
built on an island, part on the mainland, in a fertile 
and well-watered plain at the western foot of the 
Lebanon mountain range. It was the great maritime 

power of the ancient world and reached its zenith 
from the 12th to the 6th centuries B.c,, with 
colonies on the north and west coasts of Africa, in 
Spain, and in Britain. Tyre controlled the 
commerce of the Mediterranean — the wares of all 
nations passed through its port. It was a city 
renowned for its splendor and fabulous wealth. 

With Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest, Tyre ceased 
to be an independent power. It was later subdued 
by the Persians, and again by Alexander the Great 
(332 B.c,). It never recovered its former glory and 
has for centuries been a “bare rock” where 
fishermen “spread fishnets” (26:4-5, 14), an 
amazing fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy that it 
“will never be rebuilt” (26: 14, 2 1 ; 27:36; 28:29). 

Chapter 27. Tyre, mistress of the 
Mediterranean, is pictured under the image of a 
majestic ship of incomparable beauty, bearing the 
wares and treasures of the nations, but about to be 

Chapter 28:1-19. The overthrow of Tyre’s 
proud king, who, on his inaccessible and 
impregnable island throne, took any threat to his 
security lightly. 

Chapter 28:20-24. The overthrow of Sidon, 
20 miles north of Tyre. It was taken by 

Nebuchadnezzar when he took Tyre. 

Chapter 28:25-26. The restoration of Israel, 
after the hostile neighbor nations shall have 

i l 


Six visions that predict Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion 
of Egypt and Egypt’s permanent reduction to a 
place of minor importance. Nebuchadnezzar 
invaded and plundered Egypt in 568 B.c, Egypt 
never quite recovered its former glory (29: 15). 

First Vision (29:1-16). January 587 B.c., 18 
months before the fall of Jerusalem. As Tyre was 
pictured as a ship in chapter 27, in this vision 
Egypt is pictured as a crocodile, monarch of the 
Nile, and one of the gods of Egypt. 

The 40 years of Egypt’s captivity and 
desolation (vv. 11-12): it was nearly 40 years 
from Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt to the 
rise of Persia (536 b.c.), under whose rule all 
captive peoples were allowed to return to their 

native lands. 

Second Vision (29:17-30:19). April 571 B.c., 
16 years after the fall of Jerusalem. This vision, 
given many years after the other five visions, on 
the eve of Nebuchadnezzar’s march into Egypt, is 
inserted here for unity of subject. He and his army 
obtained no material reward from their campaign 
against Tyre (29:18); Nebuchadnezzar, God’s 
servant in punishing the nations, had besieged Tyre 
for 13 years (ending in 573 B.c.). Considering the 
length of the siege, the booty had been 
disappointing because so many inhabitants had fled 
with their wealth. But now he will make up for it 
in Egypt (v. 20). “No longer will there be a 
prince” (30:13), that is, a native ruler of 

Third Vision (30:20-26). April 587 B.c,, 15 
months before Jerusalem fell. “Have broken” (v. 
21) probably refers to the defeat of Pharaoh’s army 
(Jeremiah 37:5-9). 

Fourth Vision (chap. 31). June 587 B.c., 13 
months before Jerusalem fell. Egypt is warned to 
remember the fate of Assyria, which was more 

powerful than Egypt yet had fallen to Babylon. 

Fifth Vision (32:1-16). March 585 B.C., eight 
months after Jerusalem fell. A lamentation over 
Egypt, to be crushed at the hands of Babylon. 

Sixth Vision (32: 17-32). March 585 B.c., eight 
months after Jerusalem fell. A picture of Egypt and 
her companions in the realm of the dead. 


This happens a year and a half after the city had 
fallen (see chronology in the chapter on Ezekiel ! . 
Ezekiel had been silent since the day the siege had 
begun, a period of three years (24:1, 26-27; 
32:22). The visions against Tyre and Egypt of 
chapters 26-31, most of which came during those 
three years, must have been written, not spoken. 

Ezekiel’s first statement after receiving news 
of the fall was that the wicked left in Judah would 
be exterminated (vv. 23-29). Five years later 
Nebuchadnezzar took 745 more captives (Jeremiah 


Then follows a note about Ezekiel’s popularity 
with the exiles (vv. 30-33), who were charmed by 
his speech but continued to be unrepentant. 


Responsibility for the captivity of Israel is here 
laid directly at the door of the greedy and cruel 
kings and priests who had exploited the people and 
led them astray. Against this background Ezekiel 
sees a vision of the future Shepherd of God’s 
people in the coming Messiah (vv. 15, 23-24), 
under whom they shall never again suffer — “there 
will be showers of blessing” (v. 26). 


Now that the inhabitants of Judah had been taken 
away, Edom saw an opportunity to take possession 

of their land (v. 10; 36:2, 5). But three years later 
the same fate befell Edom, (See under Obadiah.) 


Now desolate, it will one day become like the 
Garden of Eden (v. 35), populated by a penitent 
Judah and Israel (vv. 10, 31). This will be for the 
glory of God’s own name (vv. 22, 32). 


This vision is a prediction of the national 
resurrection of scattered Israel, their return to their 
own land, and the reunion of Judah and Israel 
under the reign of an everlasting king called 
“David” (vv. 24-26). It is a plain forecast of the 
conversion of the Jews to Christ, as Paul also 
foretold in Romans 11:15, 25-26. 

“I will put my Spirit in you and you will 
live, and I will settle you in your own 
land. Then you will know that I the Lord 
have spoken, and I have done it, 
declares the Lord. ” 

—Ezekiel 37:1, 3-6, 14 

The vision encompasses the “whole house of 
Israel” (vv. 11), both Judah and Israel, the southern 
kingdom and the northern kingdom. The return of 
Judah is told in Ezra and Nehemiah, where there is 
no mention of returned exiles of Israel. Yet those 
returned are called “Israel” (Ezra 9:1; 10:5; 
Nehemiah 9:2; 11:3). 

There is difference of opinion as to how much 
of this is to be interpreted literally as referring to 
the Jews and what may be a foreshadowing of the 
new covenant in its universal aspect (vv. 26-28). It 
is not always easy to draw a clear line between 
what is to be taken literally and what figuratively. 

For instance, it would seem that the great battle of 
Gog and Magog of chapters 38-39, which is still 
future, could not be fought with literal bows and 
arrows, war clubs, and spears (39:9). 

David (37:24) is not literal David, but the 
Messiah. The term “Israel” in the New Testament, 
while usually used of Jews, is sometimes applied 
to Christians (Galatians 6:16), and it is indicated 
that Gentiles were included in the meaning 
(Romans 2:28-29; 4:13-16; Galatians 3:7-9, 29; 
Philippians 3:3). So this vision of a reinhabited 
land and a revived and glorified nation, making all 
due allowance for its evident literal meaning, may 
also be a symbolic image of a regenerated earth, as 
the book of Revelation depicts heaven under the 
image of a magnificent earthly city (Revelation 
21). Biblical prophecies of the future were often 
pictured in terms of what was then present. We 
think that in such passages as this there may be 
both a literal and a figurative meaning, just as in 
Matthew 24 some of Jesus’ words seem to refer 
both to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the end 
of the world, the one typical of the other. 

The Messiah is central in Ezekiel’s visions of 
Israel’s future. He calls Him “the Prince” (34:23- 
24; 37:24-25; 44:3; 45:7; 46: 16-18; 48:21). 

i l 

Ezek. 38-39 GOG AND MAGOG 

Much has been written (and speculated) about the 
prophetic meaning of Gog and Magog. Gog is 
apparently a leader or king whose name appears 
only here and in Revelation 20:8. Attempts have 
been made to identify Gog with historical rulers, 
such as Gyges, king of Lydia (ca. 660 B.c.). 
Possibly the name is purposely vague, standing for 
an as yet undisclosed enemy of God’s people. In 
the book of Revelation, Gog and Magog are used 
to represent all nations in Satan’s final, furious 
attack on the people of God (Revelation 20:7-10). 

In Ezekiel 39:16, Magog appears to be the 
name of a people. But since the Hebrew prefix ma 
can mean “place of,” Magog may here simply mean 
“land of Gog.” From the time they entered Canaan, 
the Israelites had experienced hostilities from 

other Semitic peoples. The coalition Ezekiel 
envisions will include and be led by nations 
descended from Japheth. 

The “chief prince” is evidently a military 
commander-in-chief. (An alternative meaning is 
“prince of Rosh”; if this is correct, Rosh would be 
the name of an unknown people or place. There is 
no evidence from the Ancient Near East that a 
country named Rosh ever existed. Rosh is 
sometimes thought to refer to Russia because of the 
similar sound; however, the word “Russia” dates 
from the late 11th century a.d. — more than 1,500 
years after Ezekiel’s day.) 

Magog, a descendant of Japheth (Genesis 
10:2), is identified by Josephus ( Antiq . 1.123) as 
the land of the Scythians, a mountainous region 
around the Black and Caspian seas. This position 
is generally accepted. 

Meshech and Tubal were sons of Japheth (see 
Genesis 10:2; 1 Chronicles 1:5) and are probably 
to be located in eastern Asia Minor (cf. 27:13; 
32:26). They are peoples and territories to the 
north of Israel (cf. vv. 6, 15; 39:2). Thus, Gog is a 

person from the region of Magog who is the chief 
ruler, or prince, over the geographical areas 
Meshech and Tubal. These areas, or countries, 
seem to be located generally south of the Black and 
Caspian seas in what are now the countries of 
Russia, Turkey, and Iran. 

As in the days of the Assyrians and 
Babylonians, the major attack will again come 
from the north in confederation with peoples from 
the east. With the help of God, those attacking will 
be so overwhelmingly defeated that their weapons 
will supply fuel for seven years (39:9) and it will 
take seven months to bury their dead (39: 12). 

Ezek. 40-48 THE REBUILT 

In April 572 B.c., at the time of the Passover, 14 
years after the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel 
makes his second journey in a vision to Jerusalem; 
the first had been 19 years earlier (8:1, 3), on a 
mission of doom for the city. This second vision- 

journey is to give specifications for Jerusalem’s 
reconstruction and deals largely with details 
concerning the new temple. 

This vision was not fulfilled in the return from 
Babylon. It is clearly a prediction of the Messianic 

Some interpret it literally as meaning that the 
12 tribes will one day again inhabit the land and be 
distributed as here indicated, that the temple will 
be rebuilt literally in all particulars as here 
specified, and that there will be literal animal 
sacrifices. They call it “the millennial temple.” 

Others interpret it figuratively and take the 
vision to be a metaphorical preview of the whole 
Christian era under the image of a revived, 
restored, and glorified nation. 

This temple of EzekieTs vision, with its courts, 
arrangements, and furnishings, follows roughly, 
though with many variations, the general plan of 
Solomon’s temple. 

God was to live in this temple “forever” 
(43:7). This can hardly be said of a literal, 
material temple. It must be a figurative 

representation of something, since Jesus, in John 
4:21-24, abrogated temple worship and there will 
be no temple in heaven (Revelation 2 1 :22). 

Offerings and sacrifices (45:9-46:24). One 
wonders why there should be sacrifices under the 
reign of “the prince.” The epistle to the Hebrews 
explicitly states that sacrifices were fulfilled and 
done away in the death of Christ, “once for all.” 
Those who think that this temple is a literal 
“millennial temple” consider that these animal 
sacrifices are to be offered by the Jewish nation 
while it is still unconverted, or that the sacrifices 
are commemorative of the death of Christ. 

The life-giving stream (47:1-12). This is one 
of Ezekiel’s grandest passages. Joel and Zechariah 
also spoke of this stream (Joel 3:18; Zechariah 
14:8). It seems to be a picture of heaven’s “river of 
the water of life” (Revelation 22:1-2). Whatever 
specific or literal application these waters may 
have, certainly, without any straining whatever, 
they can be understood as a beautiful picture of the 
benign influences of Christ, coming out of 
Jerusalem and flowing forth, in an ever-widening, 

ever-deepening stream, to the whole wide world, 
blessing the nations with their life-giving qualities, 
on into the eternities of heaven. 

The east gate of the temple is to be closed, 
except to “the prince” (44: 1-3). 

The sacred area for the city, temple, priests, 
and Levites was to be in the approximate center of 
the land, with the lands of “the prince” on either 
side (45:1-8). 

Boundaries of the land and the location of the 
tribes (47:13-48:29). The land was not quite as 
large as the domain of David. Roughly, it was the 
southern half of the eastern shore of the 
Mediterranean, about 400 miles north-south and 
averaging about 100 miles east- west. The tribes 
are not in their original arrangement, but as here 

The city (48:30-35) is 7 1/2 miles square. The 
pattern is, in part, that of the New Jerusalem 
(Revelation 21). The city is the home of God (v. 


The Hebrew Statesman-Prophet at 

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, 
the God we serve is able to save us from it, 
and he will rescue us from your hand, 0 
king. But even if he does not, we want you to 
know, 0 king, that we will not serve your 
gods or worship the image of gold you have 
set up. ” 

— Daniel 3:17-18 

When Daniel was lifted from the den, no 
wound was found on him, because he had 
trusted in his God. 

Daniel 6:23 

While still a mere youth, Daniel was carried to 
Babylon, where he lived during the whole period 
of the Babylonian exile, at times occupying high 
office in the Babylonian and Persian empires. 

The Book of Daniel 

The book itself presents Daniel as its author (7:1, 
28; 8:2; 9:2; 10:1-2; 12:4-5). Its genuineness was 
sanctioned by Christ (Matthew 24:15) and 
accepted by the Jews and early Christians. The 
traditional view, that the book is a true historical 
document dating from the days of Daniel himself, 
persisted unanimously among Christian and Jewish 
scholars until the rise of modern criticism. The 
critics, in the name of modern scholarship, assume 
it to be a settled fact that the book was written by 
an unknown author who lived 400 years after 
Daniel, who assumed Daniel’s name and palmed 
off his own writing as the genuine work of a hero 
long dead. But how can we think that God could be 
a party to the deception? We suspect that the real 
crux of the attempt to discredit the book of Daniel 

is an unwillingness to accept the marvelous 
miracles and amazing prophecies recorded in the 

The book of Daniel, like the rest of the Old 
Testament, is written in Hebrew — except for the 
section from 2:4 to 7:28, which is in Aramaic 
(what used to be called Chaldee). Aramaic was the 
commercial and diplomatic language of the time. 
This is what might be expected in a book written 
for Jews living among Babylonians, containing 
copies of official Babylonian documents in their 
original Babylonian language. (See The 
Development of Writing in the chapter Writing, 
Books, and the Bible) 

This book is considered by many to be 
generally historical in nature in chapters 1-6 and 
apocalyptic (revelatory) or prophetic in chapters 
7-12. There are similarities between events and 
visions described in Daniel with those presented 
in the book of Revelation. 

Dan. 1 DANIEL 

Daniel was in the first group of captives taken 
from Jerusalem to Babylon (605 B.c.). He was of 
royal or noble blood (v. 3). Josephus says that 
Daniel and his three friends were related to King 
Zedekiah, which gave them easier entree to the 
palace of Babylon. Handsome, brilliant young men, 
who were under the special care of God and 
trained by Him to bear witness to His name at the 
heathen court that then ruled the world. The royal 
food and wine (v. 8), which they refused to eat, 
may have been foods that had been offered in 
sacrifice to Babylonian idols or foods that were 
not allowed under the dietary laws of Moses. 

Daniel’s meteoric rise to worldwide fame is 
indicated in Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3, written only 
15 years later, while Daniel was still a very young 
man. What a remarkable man! Unswerving in his 
own religious convictions, yet so loyal to his 
idolatrous king that he was trusted with the affairs 
of the empire. 

The City of Babylon 

Babylon, the scene of Daniel’s ministry, was 
perhaps the most magnificent city of the 
ancient world. Situated in the cradle of the 
human race, it had been built around the 
Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:9) and was a 
favorite residence of Babylonian, Assyrian, 
and Persian kings, and even of Alexander the 
Great, who had plans to further beautify it 
that came to naught because of his early 

A commanding city through the whole pre- 
Christian era, Babylon was brought to the 
zenith of its power and glory in the days of the 
prophet Daniel, by King Nebuchadnezzar, 
who, during his 45-year reign, never wearied 
of building and beautifying its palaces and 

It was captured by the Medes and Persians 
(Daniel 5) but remained an important city 

through the Persian period. After Alexander 
the Great it declined, and by the time of 
Christ its political and commercial supremacy 
had gone, and soon the greater part of the 
once-mighty city was in ruins. Its bricks have 
been used in building Baghdad and repairing 
canals. For centuries it has been a desolate 
heap of mounds, a place for the beasts of the 
desert; a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy; 
still uninhabited except for a little village at the 
southwest corner. 

The ruins of Babylon are an eerie reflection of 
Isaiah’s prophecy: “She will never be 

inhabited or lived in through all generations; no 
Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will 
rest his flocks there. But desert creatures will 
lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the 
owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will 
leap about. Hyenas will howl in her 
strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palace” 
(Isaiah 13:20-22; see Jeremiah 51:37-43). 

The Hanging Gardens 

The most spectacular construction in Babylon 
was the Hanging Gardens, which were 
considered one of the Seven Wonders of the 
Ancient World. Nebuchadnezzar had the 
gardens built inside the walls of his palace to 
ease the homesickness of his wife, Amytis, 
from Media, which was a wild, mountainous 
country, very unlike the flat plains surrounding 

The lowest level of the garden stood on 
arches 80 feet tall. On top of that a 10-foot- 
high, recessed level was built, and another 
one on top of that, recessed further. There 
may have been six levels in all, creating a 
gigantic staircase some 140 feet tall. The 
terraces were waterproofed with lead, 
bitumen, and reeds and then filled with rich 
soil. On the terraces Nebuchadnezzar planted 
trees, shrubs, and flowers, so that the whole 
looked like a beautiful mountainside. 

The terraces were irrigated from the 
Euphrates. A series of pipes ran from the 
river to an underground cistern. Next to the 
cistern a slim tower that reached the top 
terrace contained an endless chain of water 
buckets that were kept moving night and day 
by slaves on a treadmill. The Hanging 
Gardens were still in existence two centuries 
after Nebuchadnezzar, when Alexander the 
Great captured the city. 


This event occurred in the second year of 
Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as sole ruler, which means 
that Daniel was still a young man, having been in 
Babylon only three years. 

The four world empires here predicted as part 

of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream are generally 
understood to have been the Babylonian (head of 
pure gold), Persian (breast and arms of silver), 
Greek (belly and thighs of brass), and Roman 
empires (legs of iron and feet and toes of partly 
iron and partly baked clay). From the days of 
Daniel to the corning of Christ, the world was 
ruled by these four empires, exactly as Daniel had 
predicted. In the days of the Roman Empire, Christ 
appeared and set up a kingdom that started as a 
grain of mustard seed, passed through many 
adversities, and will become a universal and 
everlasting kingdom, blossoming into full glory at 
the Lord’s return. 

Critics who assign a Maccabean date to the 
book of Daniel, in order to explain it as referring 
to past events rather than being a prediction of the 
future, find it necessary to place all four empires 
before the date of composition, that is, before the 
Maccabean revolt. They then consider the Persian 
empire to be two empires, the Median and Persian, 
in order to make the Greek empire the fourth. But 
after the fall of Babylon there were not both a 

Median empire and a Persian empire. To make it 
appear so is only an effort to distort the facts of 
history in order to substantiate a theory. Medes and 
Persians constituted one empire under the rule of 
Persian kings. Darius the Mede was only a sub- 
king, who ruled for a little while under Cyrus the 
Persian until Cyrus arrived in Babylon. 

It is far more likely that the divided kingdom 
refers to the Roman Empire, which came after the 
Greek Empire. The Roman Empire was divided 
into a western empire and an eastern empire 
(Byzantium) in the 4th century a.d. and was never 
conquered, but fell due to internal disintegration 
and corruption. 

Moreover, nothing happened in the Maccabean 
period that answers to the rock that “was cut 
out . . . , but not by human hands” (2:44-45). These 
verses allude to a fifth kingdom — an eternal 
kingdom of God that will never be destroyed, that 
will not be left to another people, that will bring an 
end to all other kingdoms. 

This prophecy of the four kingdoms is further 
expanded under different images in chapter 7 (the 

four beasts), chapter 8 (the ram and the goat), 
chapter 9 (the 70 weeks), and chapter 11 (the 
struggles between the kings of the North and kings 
of the South). See The World Powers of Biblical 
Times in The Setting of the Bible, and maps: 
Empires for an overview of these four kingdoms. 


According to the Septuagint, this incident occurred 
in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, after 
Daniel and his three friends had been in Babylon 
for about 20 years. That was 586 B.c., the same 
year Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem 

Just as many years earlier God had revealed 
the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its interpretation 
to Daniel, so He now puts into the hearts of these 
three men the firm determination to be true to Him 
— and then He goes with them into the fire, not 
only to honor their faith but to demonstrate before 
the assembled dignitaries of the far-flung empire 
the power of the God of Jerusalem over the 

vaunted gods of Babylon. Thus God manifested 
himself a second time in the palace of the mighty 
empire, and a second time the mighty 
Nebuchadnezzar bowed before God and 
proclaimed Him to be the true God to the utmost 
bounds of his empire. 

The Babylonian Empire 

The Babylonian Empire ruled the ancient Near 
East during two periods, almost a millennium 

The Old Babylonian Empire (2000-1600 


• Around 2000 b.c. Babylon became the 
dominating power of the world 

• This was the era of the great lawgiver 
Hammurabi (ca. 1800 b.c.). 

• Then followed 1000 years of intermittent 
struggle, followed by 250 years of 

Assyrian supremacy (884-605 b.c.). 

The New Babylonian Empire (625-539 b.c.) 

The New Babylonian or Neo-Babylonian 
Empire broke the power of Assyria and, in its 
westward sweep, destroyed Judah and 

conquered Egypt. Its kings were 

• Nabopolassar (625-605 b.c.), who 

threw off the yoke of Assyria in 625 b.c. 
and established the independence of 
Babylon. With the aid of Cyaxares the 
Mede he conquered and destroyed 
Nineveh (612 b.c.). His son 

Nebuchadnezzar became commander of 

his father’s armies and in 605 b.c. 
became coregent with his father. 

• Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 b.c), the 
greatest of all Babylonian kings, was one 
of the mightiest monarchs of all time. 
(See the sidebar Nebuchadnezzar in the 
chapter on Daniel). 

Under Nebuchadnezzar’s successors the 
Babylonian Empire began to decline: Evil- 
Merodach (562-560), Neriglissar (559- 
556), Labashi-Marduk (556), and 
Nabonidus (556-539 b.c.). 

Nabonidus’s son, Belshazzar, was 
coregent with him during the last few 
years of his reign, and thus the second- 
most powerful person in Babylon. This is 
why he could only offer Daniel the third- 
highest position as a reward for 
interpreting the handwriting on the wall 
(Daniel 5:7; for the story of the 
handwriting on the wall and the fall of 
Babylon, see sidebar Belshazzar in the 
chapter on Daniel). 

The city of Babylon, and with it the 
Babylonian Empire, fell to the Medes and 
Persians. Supremacy passed to Persia in 
539 b.c. and would last until Persia was in 
turn conquered by Alexander the Great in 
331 b.c. 

The Babylonian Empire lasted 70 years. The 
70 years of Judah’s exile coincided exactly 
with the 70 years during which Babylon ruled 
the world. The year in which Cyrus, king of 
Persia, conquered Babylon (539 b.c.) was the 
same year in which he authorized the return of 
the Jews to their own land. 

Babylon, oppressor of God’s Old Testament 
people, appears again in the book of 
Revelation as the embodiment of the forces of 
evil that oppose God (Revelation 17). 


Daniel was adviser to King Nebuchadnezzar, 
the genius and real builder of the New 
Babylonian Empire. Of its 70 years’ existence, 
he ruled 44 years. 

Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar 

and viceroy of Babylon, threw off the Assyrian 
yoke in 626 b.c. and ruled the city from 626 
until 605 b.c. 

In 605 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar was placed at the 
head of his father’s armies. Invading the 
western countries, he wrested control of 
Palestine from Egypt (605 b.c.) and took 
some Jewish captives to Babylon, among 
them Daniel. 

That same year he became coregent with his 
father; he became sole ruler a year later. He 
proved to be one of the mightiest monarchs of 
all time. 

In 605 b.c., he broke the power of Egypt in 
the famous battle of Carchemish. In that 
same year Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem 
and deported a number of persons of high 
rank, among them young Daniel and 
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (1:1, 6). 

In 597 b.c. he crushed a rebellion in Palestine 
and took King Jehoiachin and many captives 

to Babylon, among them the prophet Ezekiel. 
In 586 b.c. he burned Jerusalem and took 
more captives. For 13 years his army 
besieged the city of Tyre (585-573 b.c.). 

In ca. 582 b.c. he invaded and plundered 
Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Lebanon; and in 
581 he again took captives from Judah. In 
572 he invaded and plundered Egypt. He died 
562 b.c. 

Daniel exerted a powerful influence over him; 
and three times Nebuchadnezzar called the 
God of Daniel “God” (2:47; 3:29; 4:34). 


This is the story of another dream of 
Nebuchadnezzar’s that Daniel interpreted, and that 
came true. Nebuchadnezzar was smitten with a 

mental disease in which he fancied himself a beast 
and tried to act like one, roaming among the 
animals in the parks of the palace grounds. A third 
time, Nebuchadnezzar bowed before God and 
proclaimed His power to all the world. 

Additions to the Book of 

The Septuagint version of the book of Daniel 
(as well as other Greek versions) includes, 
among other additions, between 3:23 and 
3:24 a section that contains a prayer of 
Azariah (the Hebrew name of Abednego; 1 :7) 
and a song by all three men in the fiery 
furnace. It embodied a popular tradition but 
was never regarded as a part of the Hebrew 
Bible. It is still found in the Apocrypha in 
Protestant Bibles and as part of the book of 
Daniel in Roman Catholic Bibles. (On the 
Apocrypha, see The Apocrypha in the chapter 

on How We Got the Bible.) 


The feast took place on the night of the fall of 
Babylon. Daniel had been in Babylon for 70 years 
and was now a very old man. He apparently no 
longer had a prominent position at the court, since 
the queen had to bring Daniel to Belshazzar’s 
attention (vv. 10-12). 

The handwriting on the wall (vv. 25-28). 
This is how the ancient historians Xenophon, 
Herodotus, and Berosus relate the fall of Babylon: 
“Cyrus diverted the Euphrates into a new channel, 
and, guided by two deserters, marched through the 
dry bed into the city, while the Babylonians were 
carousing at a feast of their gods.” 


Until 1853, no mention of Belshazzar had 
been found in Babylonian records; Nabonidas 
(556-539 b.c.) was known to have been the 
last king of Babylon. To the critics this was 
one of the evidences that the book of Daniel 
was not historical. But in 1853 an inscription 
was found on the cornerstone of a temple 
built by Nabonidas in Ur, which read: “May I, 
Nabonidas, king of Babylon, not sin against 
thee. And may reverence for thee dwell in the 
heart of Belshazzar, my firstborn, favorite 

From other inscriptions it has been learned 
that Nabonidas spent much of his time outside 
of Babylon (at Teman in northern Arabia), that 
Belshazzar was in control of the army and the 
government as coregent with his father, and 
that it was he who surrendered to Cyrus. This 
explains how making Daniel the “third ruler” in 
the kingdom was the highest honor 
Belshazzar could bestow (5:16, 29). 

Inscriptions state that the Persian army, under 
Gobryas, took Babylon without a battle, that he 
killed the son of the king, and that Cyrus entered 


Daniel had been a high official of the Babylonian 
Empire under Nebuchadnezzar, and though Daniel 
was by now a very old man, probably over 90, 
Darius, the conqueror of Babylon, immediately put 
him in charge of the Babylonian government. This 
probably was because Daniel had just foretold the 
victory of the Medes (5:28). What a compliment to 
his wisdom, integrity, and fairness! Yet he was 
unswerving in his personal devotion to his own 
God (v. 10). What faith and courage! 


This is a continuation of the prophecy of chapter 2, 
which was spoken 60 years earlier: four world 
empires, and then the kingdom of God. In chapter 2 
these are represented by a statue with a head of 
gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of 
brass, and feet of iron and clay, broken in pieces 
by a stone. In this chapter these same four world 
empires are represented as a lion, a bear, a 
leopard, and a terrifying beast. The fourth beast 
may also correspond to the imagery of the seven- 
headed, 10-horned beast of Revelation 13. 

The image in chapter 2 might be from man’s 
perspective — the kingdoms are seen as a mighty 
warrior — while the images given to Daniel in 
chapter 8 may be from God’s perspective: the 
kingdoms, which in the end will all be conquered, 
are seen as voracious beasts. 

These four world empires are commonly taken 
to be Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome (see 
under chap. 2), representing the period from 
Daniel to the end of the church age (Christ’s 

second coming . . .). 

Darius the Mede 

The identification of Darius the Mede is not 
completely certain. Perhaps it is another 
name for Gubaru, who is referred to in 
Babylonian inscriptions as the governor whom 
Cyrus put in charge of the newly conquered 
Babylonian territories. Or perhaps “Darius the 
Mede” may have been Cyrus’s throne name in 
Babylon. (“The reign of Darius and the reign 
of Cyrus” in 6:28 is then translated “the reign 
of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus”; see 1 
Chronicles 5:26 for a similar phenomenon.) 

The “ten horns” of the fourth beast (v. 24), 
which may correspond to the 10 toes of 2:41-42, 
are taken to be the 10 kings or kingdoms into which 
the Roman Empire was divided or that were 
established and given power by the Roman 

Empire. Prophetically, the 10 horns may refer to a 
powerful 10-nation confederacy that will form in 
the last days. Some believe that this confederacy 
may arise in the geographic area that was once the 
old Roman Empire (which, unlike the three 
kingdoms before it, was never conquered and 
destroyed but fell through internal corruption). 

The “other horn” (vv. 8, 20, 24-25), which 
came up among the 10 horns, may be a world 
power that was not one of the 10 original powers 
and may refer to the Antichrist (Revelation 13). 
The image of three horns uprooted by the “little 
horn” (v. 7:8) seems to foretell a world leader 
who will overpower three of the 10 kings, after 
which great oppression follows. This world leader 
is ultimately judged, slain, and thrown into “the 
blazing fire” (v. 11). 

Note that the beast described in Daniel 7 
matches the beast of Revelation 13 but that the 
characteristics are listed in reverse order (lion, 
bear, leopard). This could be explained by the fact 
that Daniel was looking forward to the end of 
times in his dream and John has been transported 

into the future and had the opportunity to witness 
the end-time events and look back through history 
at the events leading up to the end times. 

The Miracles in the Book of 

Wonderful things are told in this book. To 
those who find it difficult to believe these 
things, we say: let us remember that for 1000 
years God had been nurturing the Hebrew 
nation for the purpose of establishing, through 
that nation, in a world of idol-worshiping 
nations, the idea that God is God. Now God’s 
nation had been destroyed by a nation that 
worshiped idols. That was plain evidence to 
all the world that the gods of Babylon were 
more powerful than the God of the Jews. It 
was a crisis in God’s struggle with idolatry. If 
ever there was a time when God needed to 
do something to show who God is, it was 

during the Babylonian exile. Strange indeed it 
would have been if nothing unusual had 
happened. Hard as it may be to believe these 
miracles, it would be harder to believe the 
rest of the story without them. 

At least the Jews, who from the very 
beginning had always been falling into idolatry, 
were now at last, in the Babylonian exile, 
convinced that their own God was the true 
God. These miracles also had a powerful 
influence on both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius 
(3:29; 6:26). 

In v. 13, Daniel describes “the son of man.” 
This is the first reference to Christ the Messiah as 
the “son of man” — a title that Jesus used of 
Himself. The “son of man” will be given authority, 
glory, and sovereign power. All the nations and 
people of every language will worship Him, and 
His dominion will never end. This account 
parallels the description of “the Lamb” in 

Revelation 14. 


This chapter contains further predictions about the 
second and third world empires spoken of in 
chapters 2 and 7, that is, the Persian and Greek 

Time Periods in the Book of 

“A time, times, and half a time” 

• Denotes the duration of the other horn of 
the fourth beast (7:25). 

• Denotes the period from Daniel to the 
time of the end (12:6-7). 

• Is used in Revelation 12:14 as identical to 

42 months and to 1,260 days (Revelation 
11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), the period of 
time the Holy City was trampled, the two 
witnesses prophesied, the woman was in 
the wilderness, and the revived beast 
was on the throne. 

The word “time,” in the phrase “a time, times, 
and half a time” is generally taken to mean 
year; the phrase thus means 3 1 12 years, 
which is 42 months, or 1,260 days. 

By some, this is taken to refer to a literal 3 
1/2 years. Others, on the year-day 
interpretation (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6), 
take it to be a period of 1,260 years. Still 
others look upon the figures, not as defining 
time limits or periods, but as being symbolic: 
7 is the symbol of completeness, while 3 1 12 , 
which is half of 7, represents incompleteness 
— that is, the reign of evil will be only 

2,300 evenings and mornings 

(8:14) is the time the sanctuary was trampled 
by the little horn of the third beast. It means 
either 2,300 days or 2,300 half-days, that is, 
1,150 days; The former is almost double 3 1 
12 years; the latter is slightly less than 3 1 /2 

1,290 days (12:11) is the duration of “the 
abomination that causes desolation,” from its 
beginning to the time of the end. 

1,335 days (12:12) apparently is an 
extension of 45 days beyond the 1,290- day 
period, culminating in final blessedness. 

70 Weeks (9:24) is the period from the 
decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of 
the Messiah. It includes “seven weeks” of 
times of trouble (9:25) and one week in which 
the Anointed One was to be cut off (9:26-27). 
These time periods are used in close 
connection with the phrase “abomination that 

causes desolation” set up by the little horn of 
the third beast (8:13; 11:31); this 

“abomination” also follows the cutting off of 
the Messiah (9:27) and is the point from 
which the 1,290 days run (12:11). Jesus 
quotes this expression, “abomination that 
causes desolation,” as referring to the 
impending destruction of Jerusalem by the 
Roman army (Matthew 24:15), in a discourse 
that blends “short-term” prophecies with 
prophecies involving the end of the world. 

Time of trouble (9:25, 27) refers to the 
seven weeks at the beginning and one week 
at the end of the 70-week period. A time of 

distress such as has not 
happened from the beginning of 

the nations (12:1) is predicted for the 
“time of the end” (12:4, 9, 13); Jesus quotes 
the expression as referring to both the 
destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the 

world (Matthew 24:21). 

The desecration of the temple by Antiochus 
(see Under Syrian Rule (The Seleucids) in the 
chapter The 400 Years Between the 
Testaments) lasted 3 1 12 years (168-165 
b.c.). The Roman war against Jerusalem 
lasted 3 1 12 years (a.d. 67-70). 

We think that no one interpretation can 
exhaust the meaning of these time marks of 
Daniel. Possibly they may be taken literally as 
well as in some sense figuratively and 
symbolically. Possibly they may have their 
primary fulfillment in an event of history, a 
secondary fulfillment in another event, and 
their ultimate fulfillment at the time of the end. 
The desecration of the temple by Antiochus 
and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus may 
be forerunners and symbols of the Great 
Tribulation in the days of Antichrist. 

We should not be too disappointed if we fail 
to feel sure that we understand, for Daniel 

himself felt that it was beyond understanding 
( 8 : 27 ). 

The Persian Empire, represented in 7:5 as a 
devouring bear, is here presented as a two-horned 
ram (vv. 3-4), since the empire was a coalition of 
Medes and Persians. 

The Greek Empire was pictured in 7:6 as a 
four-headed leopard; here it is portrayed as a swift 
goat with one great horn, bounding furiously from 
the west; the great horn is broken and replaced 
with four horns. 

The great horn was Alexander the Great, who 
broke the Persian Empire in 331 B.c. This 
prophecy was written 539 B.c,, 200 years before 
its fulfillment, ft is a most remarkable prediction of 
the outcome of a clash between two world- 
empires, neither of which had, at the time of the 
prediction, yet arisen. 

Four horns (vv. 8, 21-22) and four heads (7:6) 
are the four kingdoms into which Alexander’s 
empire was divided (see on chap. 11). 

The little horn (v. 9), which arose out of the 
four, is generally agreed to mean Antiochus 
Epiphanes (175-163 b.c.), of the Syrian branch of 
the Greek Empire, who made a determined effort 
to stamp out the Jewish religion (see under 11:21— 
35). Yet the repeated phrase “time of the end” (vv. 
17, 19) may mean that along with the near view of 
Antiochus there may have been in the distant 
background of the vision the ominous outline of a 
far more terrible destroyer (v. 26) who would 
darken the closing days of history and of whom 
Antiochus was a symbolic forerunner. 

Dan. 9 THE 70 WEEKS, OR 70 

The Babylonian captivity, which was then drawing 
to a close, had lasted 70 years. Daniel is here told 
by the angel that it would still be “70 sevens” until 
the corning of the Messiah (v. 24). The word 
translated “seven” is generally understood to mean 
“week” here. 

The 70 weeks are generally understood to 
mean 70 weeks of years, that is, 70 times 7 years, 
or 490 years. The Exile had been 70 years; the 
period between the Exile and the coming of the 
Messiah would be seven times that long. 

The number seven, and cycles of seven, 
sometimes have symbolic meanings, yet the actual 
facts of this prophecy are most amazing: 

The date from which the 70 weeks was to be 
counted was the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (v. 
25). There were three decrees issued by Persian 
kings for this purpose (539 B.c,, 458 B.c,, 444 B.c.; 
see under Ezra). The main one of these was the one 
in 458 B.c, 

The 70 weeks are subdivided into 7 weeks, 62 
weeks, and 1 week (vv. 25, 27). It is difficult to 
see the application of the 7 weeks, but the 69 
weeks (62 + 7) equal 483 days, which, according 
to the commonly accepted year-day theory (Ezekiel 
4:6), means 483 years. 

This 483 years is the period between the 
decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the 
Anointed One (v. 25). The decree to rebuild 

Jerusalem was issued in 458 B.c. Adding 483 years 
to 457 B.c. brings us to a.d. 26, the very year in 
which Jesus was baptized and began His public 
ministry. A most remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s 
prophecy, even to the year. 

Further, within 3 1/2 years Jesus was crucified, 
that is, “in the middle of the ‘seven’ ” (in the 
middle of the week) “the Anointed One” was “cut 
off”; He atoned for wickedness and brought in 
everlasting righteousness (vv. 24, 26-27). Thus 
Daniel foretold not only the time at which the 
Messiah would appear, but also the duration of His 
public ministry and His atoning death for human 

Some think that the remaining half of the 70th 
week was completed in the few years after Christ’s 
death and resurrection. Others believe that the 
fulfillment of the 70th week was suspended at the 
death and resurrection of Christ and will remain 
suspended as long as Israel is scattered; the last 
half of the “one week” then belongs to the time of 
the end. 

Yet another viewpoint is that there is an 

indeterminate interval between the 69th and 70th 
weeks. Some believe that the 70th week will begin 
at Christ’s second coming and the rapture of the 
church. This, then, marks the beginning of the seven 
years referred to as the Great Tribulation period. It 
is thought that during this time the “little horn” of 
chapter 8 will rise to power and enter into a 
seven-year covenant with the Jews (Israel). This 
covenant is then broken after 3 1/2 years and the 
remaining 3 1/2 years represent a time of great war 
and destruction, leading up to the great and final 
battle of Armageddon. (See Revelation 7:14 
regarding the tribulation period.) 


This last vision (chaps. 10-12) was given two 
years after the Jews had returned to Palestine (534 
B.c.). God lifted the veil and showed Daniel some 
realities of the unseen world — conflicts going on 
between superhuman intelligences, good and bad, 

in their effort to control the movements of nations. 
Some of them sought to protect God’s people. 
Michael was the guardian angel of Israel (13:21). 
An unnamed angel talked with Daniel. Greece had 
its angel (v. 20), and so did Persia (vv. 13, 20). 

It seems that God was showing Daniel some of 
his secret agencies in operation to bring about the 
return of Israel. One of them helped Darius (11:1). 
In this chapter they are represented as being 
interested in the destiny of Israel; in Revelation, 
angels are concerned with the destiny of the 
church. In Revelation 12:7-9, Michael and his 
angels are at war with Satan and his angels. 
According to Ephesians 6:12, the powers of the 
unseen world are the chief enemies against which 
Christians have to fight. There was great angelic 
activity when Jesus was born. Jesus Himself 
believed in angels (see under Matthew 4:11). 


Chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11 contain predictions 
about four empires and events from the time of 
Daniel until the end of the church age. Some hold 
that these predictions refer to later world powers 
and events, from the rapture of the church to the 
end, which culminate with the battle at 
Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16). 

Here is a general outline of world history 
covered in Daniel’s prophecies: 

• Babylonian Empire (605-539 B.c.) 

• Persian Empire (539-332 B.c.) 

• Greek Empire, with its four divisions (33 1— 
146 b.c.) 

• Wars of Syrian and Egyptian Greek kings 
(323-146 B.c.) 

• Antiochus Epiphanes, desecration of 
Jerusalem (175-163 b.c.) 

• Roman Empire (146 b.c,-a.d. 400) 

• Public ministry of Christ (a.d. 26-30) 

• Destruction of Jerusalem by Roman army 
(a.d. 70) 

• World troubles, and the resurrection, at “time 
of the end” 

These predictions are progressive in their 
explanations of details. In chapter 2 we have a 
general statement that from the days of Daniel to 
the days of the Messiah there would be four world 
empires. Chapter 7 gives details about the fourth 
empire. In chapter 8 we find details about the 
second and third empires, and in chapter 11 still 
more details about the third empire. 

Following the death of Alexander the Great in 
331 B.c., the Greek Empire — the third empire — 
was divided among his generals into four regions: 
Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt. In this chapter 
the kings of Syria are called “kings of the North.” 
The kings of Egypt are called “kings of the South.” 
Daniel’s predictions of the movements of these 
kings were uttered 200 years before there was a 
Greek Empire and nearly 400 years before these 
kings existed. His minute description of their 
movements is a most extraordinary parallel 
between prediction and subsequent history. 
Chapter 11 is the prewritten history of the period 
between the two Testaments. Flere is an outline of 
events answering to the verses in which they were 
predicted (for a general overview of this period 
between the Old and New Testaments, see the 
chapter on The 400 Years Between the 
Testaments ). 

Three kings in Persia (v. 2): Cambyses, 
Gaumata, and Darius I. The fourth was Xerxes, the 
richest and most powerful of the Persian kings; he 

invaded Greece, but was defeated at Salamis (480 

A mighty king (vv. 3-4): Alexander the Great 
and the fourfold division of his kingdom into 
Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. 

King of the South (v. 5): Ptolemy I Soter of 
Egypt; one of his commanders, Seleucus I 
Nicator, originally an officer under Ptolemy I, 
became king of Syria and the most powerful of 
Alexander’s successors. 

Daughter (v. 6): Berenice, daughter of 
Ptolemy 11, was given in marriage to Antiochus II 
and was murdered. 

One of her family li ne (v. 7): Ptolemy HI, a 
brother of Berenice, invaded Syria in retaliation 
and won a great victory (8). 

Two sons (v. 10): Seleucus III and Antiochus 


Verses 11-19: Ptolemy IV defeated Antiochus 
III with great loss in the battle of Raphia, near 
Egypt in 217 B.c, Antiochus III, after 14 years, 
returned with a great army against Egypt (v. 13). 
The Jews helped Antiochus (v. 14). Antiochus 

defeated the forces of Egypt (v. 15). Antiochus 
conquered Palestine (v. 16). Antiochus gave his 
daughter Cleopatra in treacherous marriage 
alliance to Ptolemy V, hoping through her to get 
control of Egypt; but she stood with her husband 
(v. 17). Antiochus then invaded Asia Minor and 
Greece and was defeated by the Roman army at 
Magnesia in 190 B.c, (vv. 18-19). He returned to 
his own country and was assassinated. 

A contemptible person (vv. 21-35): 
Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Not the rightful heir, he 
got the throne by treachery (v. 21). He made 
himself master of Egypt, partly by force and partly 
by cunning deceit (vv. 22-25). Ptolemy VI, son of 
Cleopatra and nephew of Antiochus, was defeated 
by the treachery of his subjects (v. 26). Under the 
guise of friendship, Antiochus and Ptolemy vied 
with each other in treachery (v. 27). Returning 
from Egypt, Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, killed 
80,000, took 40,000, and sold 40,000 Jews into 
slavery (v. 28). Antiochus again invaded Egypt. 
But the Roman fleet compelled him to withdraw (v. 
29). He vented his anger on Jerusalem and 

desecrated the temple (vv. 30-31). He was helped 
by apostate Jews (v. 32). Verses 36-45 may refer 
to both Antiochus Epiphanes and the Antichrist. 


Daniel closes his prophecies concerning the 
epochs and events of world history with a sweep 
forward to the end (vv. 4, 9, 13), when there shall 
be distress as never before (v. 1), followed by the 
resurrection of the dead and the everlasting glory 
of the saints (vv. 2-3). 

A time of distress such as has not happened 
from the begin ni ng of nations (v. 1) is not 

inapplicable to our own generation: torture, 
suffering, and death of entire populations — 
genocide — by demon dictators, no more intense 
perhaps than the atrocities perpetrated by 
Antiochus, Titus, and the Roman emperors, but on 
a scale unparalleled in all previous history. 

Many will go here and there to increase 
knowledge (v. 4) is to be a characteristic of the 

time of the end. This, too, applies to our own 
generation as it has to no other: modes of travel 
and means of communication on a scale never 
before dreamed of 

Summary of Daniel’s 

• The statue: four kingdoms, and then 
God’s everlasting kingdom (chap. 2) 

• Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and recovery 
(chap. 4) 

• The fall of Babylon and the rise of the 
Persian Empire (chap. 5) 

• The “fourth” empire, its “ten horns,” and 
“other horn” (chap. 7) 

• The Greek Empire and its “four horns” 
(chap. 8) 

• The 70 weeks: the time from Daniel to 
the Messiah (chap. 9) 

• The troubles of the Holy Land during the 
period between the Testaments (chap. 
11 ) 

• Signs of the time of the end (chap. 12) 

The nuclear bomb, biological warfare, 
terrorism — it makes us wonder if we may be living 
in the period Jesus spoke of as the setting for His 
return: “On the earth, nations will be in anguish 
and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 
People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what 
is corning on the world” (Luke 2 1 :25-26). 


Israel’s Idolatry, Wickedness, Captivity, 
and Restoration 

“Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on 
the seashore, which cannot be measured or 
counted. In the place where it was said to 
them, ‘You are not my people, ’ they will be 
called ‘sons of the living God. ’ 

— Hosea 1:10 

“They sow the wind 
and reap the whirlwind. 

The stalk has no head; 
it will produce no flour. 

Were it to yield grain, 
foreigners would swallow it up. ” 

-Hose a 8:7 

Hosea was the only one of the writing prophets to 
come from the northern kingdom, Israel; he speaks 
of its king as “our” king (7:5). The name Hosea 
means “salvation.” His message was primarily 
aimed at the northern kingdom, with occasional 
reference to the southern kingdom, Judah. 


Judging from the kings mentioned in 1:1, Hosea 
must have prophesied for at least 38 years, though 
almost nothing is known about him except what we 
read in this book. But since his prophetic activity 
is dated by reference to a number of kings of 
Judah, the book was probably written in Judah 
after the fall of the northern capital, Samaria (722- 
721 b.c.) — an idea suggested by references to 
Judah throughout the book. 

Hosea began his ministry when Israel, under 
Jeroboam II (793-753), was at the zenith of its 
power. Hosea then witnessed the rapid 
disintegration and fall of the northern kingdom. 

going from its peak to its end in less than 30 years: 

• Jeroboam II (793-753). A reign of great 

• Zechariah (753-752). Reigned six months; 
assassinated by Shallum 

• Shallum (752). Reigned one month; 
assassinated by Menahem 

• Menahem (752-742). Unspeakably cruel; a 
puppet of Assyria 

• Pekahiah (742-740). Assassinated by Pekah 

• Pekah (752-732). Assassinated by Hoshea 

• Hoshea (732-722). Fall of Samaria (721). 
End of northern kingdom 

The kings of the southern kingdom during 
whose reigns he prophesied (1:1) were 

• Uzziah (792-740), a good king 

• Jotham (750-732), a good king 

• Ahaz (735-716), a very wicked king 

• Hezekiah (716-687), a good king, during 
whose reign Samaria fell 

Hosea was a younger contemporary of the 
prophet Amos and an older contemporary of the 
prophets Isaiah and Micah. 

The Situation 

Some 200 years before Hosea ’s time, the Ten 
Tribes had seceded and set up an independent 
kingdom, with the golden calf as its official 
national god. During those two centuries God had 
sent the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, and Amos. 
Now God sent Hosea. 

Hosea faced as horrendous a mess as is found 
anywhere in the Bible. The degradation of the 
people was unbelievable. Yet Hosea labored 
unceasingly to make them see that God still loved 


Israel, God’s “bride” (Ezekiel 16:8-15), had 
forsaken God and had given herself to the worship 

of other gods, which was spiritual adultery. Now 
Hosea is commanded by God to take an adulterous 
wife (1:2). The simple, natural implication of the 
language is that it was an actual experience in 
Hosea’s life, and a generally accepted 
interpretation is that Hosea, a prophet of God, was 
actually commanded by God to marry an unchaste 
woman, as a symbol of God’s love for wayward 
Israel. (Or perhaps she was a woman who, if she 
was chaste at first, afterward proved unfaithful, 
left him, and became the paramour of a man who 
could better satisfy her fondness for luxury; 2:5.) 
The idolatrous worship of the land was so 
universally accompanied by immoral practices 
(4:11-14) that it was hard for a woman to be 
chaste, and adultery (the KJV uses the forceful 
term “whoredom”) was rampant. 

Some of the language applies to Hosea’s family 
literally, some to the nation figuratively, some to 
both, with the literal and figurative alternating. 
“His sentences fall like the throbs of a broken 

Hosea’s reconciliation with his wife (3:1-5). 

Hosea still loved his wife and bought her back 
(3:1-2), but he required her to remain for a time 
without conjugal privilege, as a prophetic image of 
Israel remaining “many days without king and 
without sacrifice” before their eventual return to 
their God and David their king (3:3-4). 

Hosea’s children. Not only was Hosea’s 
marriage an illustration of the thing he was 
preaching, but the names of his children proclaim 
the main messages of his life. 

Jezreel (1:4-5), his firstborn, was named after 
the city of Jehu’s bloody brutality (2 Kings 10: 1— 
14). The valley of Jezreel was the age-old 
battlefield on which the kingdom was about to 
collapse. By naming his child Jezreel, Hosea was 
saying to the king and to the nation, “The hour of 
retribution and punishment has come.” 

Lo-Ruhamah (1:6), the name of the second 
child, meant “not loved.” God’s mercy had come to 
an end for Israel, though there would be a respite 
for Judah (v. 7). 

Lo-Ammi (1:9), the name of the third child, 
meant “Not my people.” 

Hosea then repeats the two names without the 
“Lo” prefix — Am mi and Ruhamah — “My people” 
and “My loved one” (2:1), looking forward to the 
time when Israel would again be God’s people. 
And in a play on the words, he predicts the day 
when other nations will be called the people of 
God (1:10), a verse Paul quotes to support his 
message that the Gospel will also be extended to 
include Gentiles (Romans 9:25). 


Idolatry is the source of their horrible crimes (vv. 
1-3). Priests feed on the sins of the people (vv. 4- 
10). The young women are harlots, married women 
entertain other men, men visit prostitutes (vv. 11- 
14). Judah (v. 15) had not s u nk into idolatry as 
deeply as Israel and was spared for about 100 
years after Israel was destroyed. Ephraim (v. 17), 
the largest and most central of the northern tribes, 
is used as a name for the whole northern kingdom. 

Beth Aven (v. 15) is another name for Bethel, 
the main center of idolatry in the northern kingdom. 

i l 


Priests, king, and people are “rebels” against God 
(vv. 1-3). Steeped in sin and proud of it; “their 
deeds do not permit them to return to their God” — 
a terrible statement about the possibility of 
irreversible rejection of God (vv. 4-5). 

Illegitimate children (v. 7), that is, by men 
other than their husbands. 

Intent on pursuing idols (v. 11), the result of 
King Jeroboam I’s decision to create, for political 
reasons, a form of idolatry that would compete 
with the worship of God in Jerusalem (1 Kings 
12:26-33) when he first established the northern 

Hos. 6-7 ISRAEL IS 

On the t hi rd day (6:2) probably means that after a 
short period Israel would be restored; it is 
generally understood to be an intimation of Jesus 
the Messiah’s resurrection on the third day. Gilead 
(6:8) and Shechem (6:9) were two of the main 
cities of the northern kingdom and were 
particularly horrible as centers of vice and 

Hot as an oven; they devour their rulers 

(7:7; v. 4) probably refers to the period of 
passionate indulgence and violence in which four 
of their kings were assassinated in quick 
succession, even while Hosea was speaking. 

A flat cake not turned (7:8) is burnt on one 
side and raw on the other and therefore u nf it for 

Hair . . . sprinkled with gray (7:9) is a 
symptom of the approaching end. 


Set up kings without my consent (v. 4): God had 
appointed David’s family to rule his people. The 
Ten Tribes had rebelled and set up a different line 
of kings for themselves. 

Sold herself to lovers (v. 9): Israel flirted 
with Assyria by paying tribute. 

Hos. 9-10 ISRAEL’S 

Return to Egypt (9:3): not literally, but to Egypt- 
like bondage in Assyria, although after the 
captivity many Jews did settle in Egypt. 

The prophet is considered a fool (9:7) is 
either Hosea’s opinion of false prophets or, more 
probably, the people’s opinion of Hosea. 

They have sunk deep into corruption (9:9), 
as in the days of Gibeah, where one woman was 

raped all night long by a group of men (Judges 

Wanderers among the nations (9:17): the 
wandering began in Hosea’s lifetime and has 
continued with relentless persistence through the 
centuries, for the Jews as for no other nation. 

The calf-idol of Beth Aven [Bethel] (10:5) 
shall be broken in pieces (8:6), and thorns and 
thistles shall grow over their altars (10:8). 

Shalman ( 10: 14) is probably Shalmaneser V 

Hos. 11:1-11 GOD’S LOVE FOR 

Out of Egypt (v. 1): this is quoted in Matthew 
2:15 as referring to the flight of Jesus’ parents to 
Egypt. Even as the messianic nation was called out 
of Egypt in its childhood, so the Messiah Himself 
in His childhood was called out of Egypt. 

My people are determined to turn from me 
(v. 7), but God’s heart is still yearning for them 

with compassion (8-1 1). 

i l 

Hos. 11:12-12:14 ISRAEL’S SIN 

Assyria and Egypt (v. 2): Israel’s lying 

diplomacy, making secret agreements with both 
Assyria and Egypt to play them against each other, 
would bring disaster. 

Bethel (v. 4), the center of their abominable 
idolatry, was the very spot where their father 
Jacob had dedicated his life to God (Genesis 


Guilty of Baal worship (v. 1): the addition of Baal 
worship to Jeroboam I’s calf worship, under Ahab 
(1 Kings 16:30-33), brought national death. 


The Lord’s wayward bride shall return to her 
husband and once again respond to His love, as in 
the days of her youth (2: 14-20). 


The Coming Day of Judgment 
The Promise of the Outpouring of God’s 

“And afterward, 

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
your old men will dream dreams, 
your young men will see visions. 

Even on my servants, both men and women, 
I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 

I will show wonders in the heavens 
and on the earth, 

blood and fire and billows of smoke. 

The sun will be turned to darkness 
and the moon to blood 

before the coming of the great and dreadful 
day of the Lord. 

And everyone who calls 

on the name of the Lord will be saved. ” 

—Joel 2:28-32 

The book of Joel, like that of Zephaniah, is a book 
about coming judgment. Like the book of 
Revelation, it predicts the harvest of the earth, 
(3:13-14; Revelation 14:15-16). It also provides 
a prediction of the Gospel Age and the 
corresponding outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 


There is no indication in the book as to the date of 
writing. It is usually considered one of the earliest 
of the prophets of Judah, in the time of Joash 
(about 830 B.c,), or possibly in the reign of Uzziah 
(about 750 b.c.). 

Joel 1:1-2:27 THE PLAGUE OF 

An appalling famine, caused by an unprecedented 
plague of locusts followed by prolonged drought, 
had devastated the land. The locust is an insect that 
resembles a large grasshopper. The four different 
names used in 1:4 indicate different species of 
locusts or different stages of growth. Vast clouds of 
locusts, darkening the sun, swarming upon the 
earth, devouring every green thing, brought the 
people to their knees. God heard their cry, 
removed the locusts, and promised an era of 
prosperity. These locusts suggest, and may 
foreshadow, those in Revelation 9:1—11. 

Joel 2:38-3:21 THE COMING 

In Acts 2:17-21, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 as a 
prediction and explanation of what happened on 
the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. This means that 
God intended the passage to be a prophetic image 
of the Gospel Era. ft would be a day of judgment 

for the nations (3:1-12). Joel expresses this in 
terms of the nations of his own time that were 
enemies of Judah: Sidonians, Philistines, 

Egyptians, and Edomites (3:4, 19). 

But it meant more. The great battle in the valley 
of Jehoshaphat (traditionally identified as the 
Valley of Kidron on the east side of Jerusalem; 
3:9-12) is spoken of in apocalyptic images: the 
harvest is ripe (v. 13), the day of the Lord comes in 
the valley of decision (v. 14), the Lord will roar 
from Zion [Jerusalem] (v. 16), the earth and sky 
will tremble (v. 16), and a fountain will flow out 
of the Lord’s house (v. 18) — all of which is a 
continuation of the thought of 2:28-32, which Peter 
applied to the era of the Holy Spirit. So, as a 
whole, the passage seems to be a picture of the 
Christian age, in which God’s Word, embodied in 
the Gospel of Christ and borne by the gracious 
influences of the Holy Spirit to all mankind, would 
be the sickle in a grand harvest of souls. 


God’s Judgment on Israel 
The Future Glory of David’s Kingdom 

“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel. ” 

He who forms the moun tains, 

creates the wind, 

and reveals his thoughts to man, 

he who turns dawn to darkness, 

and treads the high places of the earth — 

the Lord God Almighty is his name. 

— Amos 4:12-13 

Amos was a prophet of Judah, the southern 
kingdom, with a message to Israel, the northern 
kingdom, during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah 
(792-740 B.c.), and Jeroboam II, king of Israel 

(793-753 b.c.; 1:1). 


This prophecy seems to have been delivered on a 
visit to Bethel (7:10-14), about 30 years before 
the fall of Israel. 

According to Josephus, the earthquake (1:1) 
occurred at the time when Uzziah was struck by 
leprosy (2 Chronicles 26: 16-21); this would place 
Amos’s prophecy in about 750 b.c. 

The reign of Jeroboam II had been very 
successful. The kingdom had been considerably 
enlarged (2 Kings 14:23-29). Israel was in the 
high tide of prosperity, but brazen in its idolatry 
and reeking with moral rottenness. It was a land of 
swearing, stealing, injustice, oppression, robbery, 
adultery, and murder. 

It had been some 200 years since the Ten 
Tribes had set up the northern kingdom, with calf 
worship as its religion (1 Kings 12:25-33). During 
part of this time, Baal worship also had been 
adopted, and many of the abominable practices of 
Canaanite idolatry were still rampant. God had 

already sent the prophets Elijah, Elisha, and Jonah. 
But to no avail. Israel, hardened in its idolatry and 
wickedness, was speeding toward ruin when God 
sent Amos and Hosea in a final effort to stop the 
nation’s mad dash toward death. 

Amos’s Contemporaries 

The prophets of the Old Testament did not work in 
total isolation from one another. There were 
prophets in the period of the northern and southern 
kingdoms who spoke but did not write. We only 
have a record of the so-called writing prophets. 
Some of the writing prophets could have known 
each other, although we have no indication that 
they in fact did. 

We can speculate that as a boy, Amos could 
have known Jonah and heard him tell of his visit to 
Nineveh. He could also have known Elisha and 
heard him tell of his association with Elijah. Jonah 
and Elisha were passing off the stage as Amos was 
coming on. Joel also may have been Amos’s 
contemporary or a near predecessor. It may have 
been Joel’s plague of locusts to which Amos refers 

(4:9). Hosea may have been in Bethel at the time of 
Amos’s visit. Hosea was the younger and 
continued his work after Amos was gone, and 
Isaiah and Micah were also beginning their 
prophetic ministry as Amos was ending his. 


Amos starts with a general impeachment of the 
whole region: Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, 
Ammon, Moab, Judah, and Israel — eight nations in 
all. He arraigns each under the same formula, for 
three sins, even for four, and specifies their 
particular sins. He then centers his attention on 

Exile (Kjy captivity) is one of the key words 
of the book (1:5, 15; 5:5, 27; 6:7; 7:9, 17). Within 
30 years these predictions were fulfilled, and 
Israel went from the zenith of its power to 

destruction and exile. 

Tekoa (1:1), the home of Amos, was 10 miles 
southwest of Jerusalem, five miles from 
Bethlehem, at an elevation of 2,700 feet, at the 
edge of the pasturelands overlooking the bleak 
wilderness of Judea. Amos would today be called 
a layman, for he was neither a priest nor a 
professional prophet, but a shepherd who also took 
care of sycamore trees (7: 14). The sycamore was a 
species of fig of poor quality, a cross between fig 
and mulberry. 

The earthquake (1:1) must have been very 
severe, for it was remembered for 200 years 
(Zechariah 14:5) and was ominously compared to 
God’s Day of Judgment (Revelation 16:18). 


Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, was 
situated on a hill 300 feet high, in a valley of 
surpassing beauty, surrounded on three sides by 

mountains. It was as impregnable as it was 
beautiful. Its palatial residences had been built on 
the backs of the poor (2:6-7; 3:10; 5:11; 8:4-7), 
with a heartlessness that would shock even the 
heathen Egyptians and Philistines (3:9-10). 

Bethel (v. 14), where Amos was speaking 
(7:13), was one of the religious centers of the 
northern kingdom, 12 miles north of Jerusalem. 
Jeroboam I had set up a golden calf here to be 
worshiped (1 Kings 12:25-33; the other golden 
calf was set up at Dan in the north), which was 
still there (Hosea 13:2). To this degenerate center 
of idolatry came Amos with God’s final warning. 


The pampered ladies of Samaria (vv. 1-3) were 
living in sumptuous indulgence on gains squeezed 
out of the poor. 

Cows of Bashan (v. 1) were fatted animals, 
pampered until taken away for slaughter. Within a 

few years these women would be taken away with 
hooks (v. 2). Assyrians literally led their captives 
by ropes attached to hooks through the lip. 

Ironically, the Israelites were pitiless in their 
cruelty, yet intensely religious (vv. 4-5). What a 
satire on religion! 

God’s repeated efforts to save them had been 
in vain. The time had come for the nation to meet 
its God (vv. 6-13). 


A lament over the fall of Israel (vv. 1-3), another 
appeal to turn to God (vv. 4-9), and another 
denunciation of their evil ways (vv. 10-27). Verses 
18-26 seem to indicate that they were willing to 
turn and offer sacrifices to God instead of to the 
calf. However, what Amos wanted was not 
sacrifices but a reformation of the heart, a radical 
change in the way they lived. 


Over and over Amos contrasts the voluptuous ease, 
palatial luxury, and feeling of security of the 
leaders and the rich with the intolerable sufferings 
that are about to befall them. 


The locusts symbolize the destruction of the land. 
Amos interceded, and God relented (vv. 1-3). 

The fire is another symbol of the coming 
destruction. Again Amos interceded, and again 
God relented (vv. 4-6). 

The plumb line indicates that the city is being 
measured for destruction. Twice God had relented 
— but no more. He had punished and punished, and 
forgiven and forgiven. Their case was hopeless 
(vv. 7-9). 

How long Amos was at Bethel is not known. 
But his repeated denunciations and warnings had a 

great impact on the land (v. 10). Amaziah, the 
priest at Bethel, reported to Jeroboam II that 
Amos was “raising a conspiracy” (vv. 10-17). But 
Amos grew bolder and bolder, telling Amaziah that 
the priest himself would be a captive. 


This is another symbol that the sinful kingdom was 
ripe for ruin. And Amos reiterates the causes: 
greed, dishonesty, and merciless brutality toward 
the poor. Over and over, through many images, the 
Bible makes it plain that there is no possible way 
to escape the consequences of persistent sin. 


Further prediction of exile (vv. 1-8). Within 30 

years it came to pass, and the apostate kingdom 
ceased to exist. 

The restored throne of David (vv. 8-15). An 
ever-recurrent prophetic vision of radiant days 
beyond the gloom. Amos lived near Bethlehem, the 
city of David. He took it to heart that the Ten 
Tribes had renounced the Davidic throne, which 
God had ordained for His people, and that for 200 
years they had obstinately declined to return to its 

God’s final word is this: in days to come, 
David’s kingdom, which they had despised, will 
recover and rule, not over one nation only, but over 
a world of nations, in eternal glory. 


The Doom of Edom 

The kingdom will be the Lord’s. 

— Obadiah 2 1 

The Edomites 

Edom was in a rocky range of mountains south of 
the Dead Sea, stretching about 100 miles north and 
south and about 20 miles east and west. It was 
well watered, with abundant pasturage. Its capital 
was Sela (es-Sela; now better known as Petra), 
which was carved high in a perpendicular cliff far 
back in the mountain canyons, overlooking a valley 
of marvelous beauty. The Edomites would go out 
on raiding expeditions and then retreat to their 
impregnable strongholds high up in the rocky 


The Edomites were descendants of Esau, but 
they were always bitter enemies of the Jews, 
perpetuating the conflict between Esau and Jacob 
(Genesis 25:23; 27:41). They refused passage to 
Moses (Numbers 20:14-21) and were always 
ready to aid an attacking army. 


Obadiah’s prophecy was occasioned by a 
plundering of Jerusalem in which the Edomites 
participated. There were four such plunderings: 

1. In the reign of Jehoram, 853-841 B.c. (2 
Chronicles 21:8, 16-17; Amos 1:6) 

2. In the reign of Amaziah, 806-767 B.c. (2 
Chronicles 25:11-12, 23-24) 

3. In the reign of Ahaz, 735-716 b.c. (2 
Chronicles 28:16-21) 

4. In the reign of Zedekiah, 597-586 b.c. (2 
Chronicles 36:11-21; Psalm 137:7) 

There are various opinions as to which of these 

four raids was the reason for Obadiah’s prophecy. 
In asmuch as the destruction of Judah is mentioned 
(vv. 11-12), the prophecy is generally assigned to 
the reign of Zedekiah, when Jerusalem was burnt 
by the Babylonians (586 B.c,). 

Other Scriptures that foretell Edom’s doom are 
Isaiah 34:5-15; Jeremiah 19:7-22; Ezekiel 25: 12— 
14; 35: 1-15; Amos 1:11-12. 

Fulfillment of the Prophecy 

Obadiah predicted that the Edomites would be 
destroyed forever and be as if they had never been 
(vv. 10, 16, 18), and that a remnant of Judah would 
be saved — the kingdom of Judah’s God would yet 
prevail (vv. 17, 19, 21). 

The end of the Edomite kingdom may have 

come as a result of the campaigns of the Neo- 
Babylonian ruler Nabonidus, sometime after 552 
B.c. The Nabateans took over Edom’s territory. The 
few Edomites that were left were confined to a 
region in south Judea, where for four centuries they 
continued to exist as active enemies of the Jews. In 
126 B.c. they were subdued by John Hyrcanus, one 
of the Maccabean rulers (see A Century of 
Independence in the chapter The 400 Years 
Between the Testaments), and were absorbed into 
the Jewish state. When Palestine was conquered by 
the Romans in 63 b.c., the Herods, an Edomite 
(Idumean) family, were placed in charge of Judah. 
This was the last hurrah of the Edomites. With the 
destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, they 
disappeared from history. 


An Errand of Mercy to Nineveh 

On the first day, Jonah started into the city. 
He proclaimed: “Forty more days and 

Nineveh will be overturned. ”. . . The 
Ninevites believed God. . . . When God saw 
what they did and how they turned from 
their evil ways, he had compassion and did 
not bring upon them the destruction he had 
threatened. . . . But Jonah was greatly 
displeased and became angry. 

— Jonah 3 : 4 - 5 , 10 ; 4:1 

God said, “Nineveh has more than a 
hundred and twenty thousand people who 
cannot tell their right hand from their left, 

and many cattle as well. Should I not be 
concerned about that great city? ’’ 

— Jonah 4:11 

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, 
which dominated the Ancient Near East for about 
300 years (900-605 B.c.). It began its rise to world 
power about the time of the division of the Hebrew 
kingdom, at the close of Solomon’s reign. It 
gradually absorbed and destroyed the northern 
kingdom of Israel. 

Thus Jonah, whose name means “dove,” was 
called by God to be a messenger. His message 
would prolong the life of the enemy nation that was 
already in the process of exterminating the northern 
kingdom of Israel, his own nation. No wonder he 
fled in the opposite direction — he was in patriotic 
dread of the brutal and relentless military machine 
that was closing in on God’s people. 

Jonah was a native of Gath Hepher. He lived in 
the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 b.c.) and helped 
recover some of Israel’s lost territory (2 Kings 
14:25). Thus, Jonah was a statesman as well as a 

prophet. His mission to Nineveh might even have 
been considered treasonous by some. 

Is the Book Historical? 

Because of the fish story, unbelieving minds rebel 
at accepting the book as factual. They call it 
fiction, or an allegory, or a parable, or a prose 
poem. Jesus unmistakably regarded it as historical 
fact (Matthew 12:39-41). It takes considerable 
straining to make anything else out of Jesus’ 
language. He called it a “sign” of His own 
resurrection. He put the fish, the repentance of the 
Ninevites, His resurrection, and the Judgment Day 
in the same category. He surely was talking of 
reality when He spoke of His resurrection and the 
Judgment Day. Thus Jesus accepted the Jonah 
story, and for us that settles it. We believe that it 
actually occurred just as recorded; that Jonah 
himself, under the direction of God’s Spirit, wrote 
the book, with no attempt to excuse his own 
unworthy behavior; and that the book, under the 
direction of God’s Spirit, was placed among the 
sacred writings in the temple as a part of God’s 

unfolding revelation of Himself. 

The fish. The word means “great fish” or “sea 
monster,” rather than “whale.” Many “sea 
monsters” have been found large enough to 
swallow a man. However, the point of the story is 
that it was a miracle, a divine attestation of Jonah’s 
mission to Nineveh. Except for some such 
astounding miracle, the Ninevites would have paid 
little attention to Jonah (Luke 11:30). 

God’s Purpose in Sending Jonah to Nineveh 

• Mainly, it seems to have been intended by 
God as a hint to His own nation that He was 
also interested in other gentile nations. Israel 
was jealous of its favored relationship with 
God and was unwilling to share the Lord’s 
compassion with the Gentiles. 

• It may have postponed the destruction of 
Israel, for “violence” was one of the things 
the Ninevites repented of (3:8). 

• Jonah’s home was Gath Hepher (2 Kings 
14:25), near Nazareth, the home of Jesus, of 

whom Jonah was a “sign.” 

• Jesus quoted Jonah’s rescue as a prophetic 
picture of His own resurrection on the “third” 
day (Matthew 12:40). 

• Joppa, where Jonah embarked to avoid 
preaching to another nation, was the very 
place God chose, 800 years later, to tell Peter 
to receive people from other nations (Acts 

Assyrian Kings Who Were 
Involved with Israel 

• Shalmaneser III (858-824 b.c.). Began to 
“cut off Israel” (2 Kings 17:3-4) 

• Adad-Nirari III (810-782). Took tribute 
from Israel. Jonah’s visit 

• Tiglath-pileser III (745-727). Deported 
most of the northern part of the northern 
kingdom, Israel 

• Shalmaneser V (727-722). Besieged 

• Sargon II (721-705). Deported the rest 
of Israel (See Isaiah) 

• Sennacherib (704-681). Invaded Judah 
(See Isaiah) 

• Esar-Haddon (681-669). Very powerful 

• Ashurbanipal (668-626). Most powerful 
and brutal (See Nahum?) 

Two weak kings followed (626-607), and the 
giant empire fell in 605 b.c. 

i i 

So, all in all, the story of Jonah is a grand 
historical picture of the Messiah’s resurrection and 
mission to all nations. (The other prophet who 
spoke against Nineveh was Nahum; see Nahum.) 


Tarshish (v. 3) is thought to have been Tartessus, a 

Phoenician mining colony in southwestern Spain, 
near Gibraltar. Jonah was heading for the farthest 
end of the then known world. 


He must have been used to praying in the words of 
the Psalms, so like this beautiful prayer. His return 
landing may have been near Joppa and may have 
been witnessed by many. 

Joppa is the only natural harbor between the Bay of Acco 

(near modern Haifa) and the Egyptian frontier. Today it takes a 
great deal of imagination to think of Joppa as the place where 
Jonah left on a risky sea voyage, disobedient to God because 
he refused to help his nation’s enemies. 

Jonah 3:5-9 NINEVEH’S 

Jonah, in his preaching, no doubt told of his 
experience with the fish, with witnesses 
accompanying him to verify his story. Speaking in 
the name of the God of the nation the Ninevites had 
begun to plunder, they took him seriously and 
became terrified. 

Jonah 3:10-4:4 JONAH’S 

He had come, not to seek the Ninevites’ 
repentance, but to announce their doom. But God 
was pleased at their repentance and deferred 

punishment, much to Jonah’s chagrin. (See further 
under Nahum) 

Jonah 4: 5-11 GOD’S LOVE FOR 

Jonah was angry with God for showing 
compassion on Nineveh, an enemy of Israel. God 
wanted Jonah to understand His compassion for the 
Gentiles so He set up a situation that would help 
Jonah see God’s love for His creation. God made a 
vine grow up over the place where Jonah sat. 
Jonah appreciated the protection from the sun that 
the vine provided. The next day, God removed the 
vine and Jonah grieved for the loss of the vine. 
God pointed out to Jonah how he was mourning the 
loss of a simple vine in which he had invested 
nothing. God used this situation to illustrate to 
Jonah how much more God grieves for this 
creation, including the people and animals of 

Jonah's Journey 

Black Sea 


IntofKJod journey 
Actual journey 

100 200 min 


The Impending Fall of Israel and Judah 
The Messiah Will Be Born at Bethlehem 

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
though you are small among the clans oj 

out of you will come for me 
one who will be ruler over Israel, 
whose origins are from of old, 
from ancient times. ” 

— Micah 5:2 

Micah prophesied in Judah, the southern kingdom, 
during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. 
Jotham and Hezekiah were good kings; Ahaz was 
extremely wicked. Thus Micah witnessed the 

apostasy of the government as well as its recovery. 
His home was Moresheth, on the Philistine border, 
near Gath, about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem 
He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and 

Micah’s message was to both Israel and Judah 
and was addressed primarily to their capitals, 
Samaria and Jerusalem The three main ideas in 
Micah’s message are the sins of Samaria and 
Jerusalem, their destruction, and their restoration. 
These three ideas are intermingled in the book, 
with abrupt transitions between present desolation 
and future glory. 


Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom, 
whose rulers were directly responsible for the 
pervasive national corruption (v. 5). Since their 
apostasy from God 200 years before (1 Kings 12), 
they had adopted calf worship and Baal worship 
and had adopted other Canaanite, Syrian, and 

Assyrian idols and idolatrous practices. God had 
sent Elijah, Elisha, and Amos (1 Kings 7-2 Kings 
2; 2 Kings 3-13) to turn them back from idols. But 
in vain. They were about ripe for the death blow. 
Micah lived to see his words come true (v. 6). In 
734 B.c. the Assyrians deported all of the northern 
part of Israel, and in 722 Samaria itself became a 
“heap of rubble.” 

The places named in vv. 10-15 were in the 
western foothills of Judah, Micah’s home territory. 
They were eventually devastated by Sennacherib 
of Assyria in his campaign of 701 B.c., during 
which he claims to have destroyed 46 strong- 
walled cities of Judah — probably including those 
mentioned by Micah. 


In addition to their idolatry (1:5-7), the ruling 
classes were merciless in their treatment of the 
poor, seizing their fields, even their clothes, and 

ejecting women with small children from their 
homes. On top of all this, their priests were 
fortune-tellers who condoned their unjust and cruel 
practices and used the Lord as a talisman: “Is not 
the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon 
us” (3:11). Micah, having mentioned the captivity 
(1:16), now abruptly pictures their restoration, 
with God marching at their head (2:12-13). 


Micah continues to rebuke the leaders of Israel for 
the wanton and inhuman cruelty of the ruling 
classes. But Jerusalem is as bad as Samaria (v. 

10) , in particular the religious leaders (vv. 5-7, 

11) . Then Micah pronounces the doom of 
Jerusalem (v. 12), as he had earlier predicted the 
fall of Samaria (1:6). 

Watchtower in a vineyard in Judah: “As for you, O watchtower 
of the flock, O stronghold of the Daughter of Zion, the former 
dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the 
Daughter of Jerusalem” (Micah 4:8). 


Micah now shifts abruptly to a vision of a warless, 
happy, prosperous, God-fearing world, with Zion 
at its head. What a contrast! Micah 4:1-3 is the 
same as Isaiah 2:2-4 — sublime, grand words that 
are worthy of repetition. 

Suddenly, in the midst of this rhapsody of the 
future, the prophet reverts to his own troubled 
times and the doom of Jerusalem, which he had just 
mentioned (3:12), announcing that the people will 

be carried away captive to Babylon (4:10). It is an 
amazing prophecy. At the time Micah prophesied, 
Assyria was sweeping everything before it. This 
was 100 years before the rise of the Babylonian 
Empire. Yet Jerusalem survived the Assyrian 
onslaught and outlived Assyria, which was 
overthrown by Babylonia — which would destroy 
Jerusalem in 586 B.c. and deport its people to 


A ruler from Bethlehem shall be at the head of 
Zion. In 4:1-8, Micah describes the glorious 
future; in 4:9-10, he goes back to the Exile; in 
4:11-12, he goes further back, to his own time, to 
describe the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians. 
In 4:13, there is again a forward sweep to the 

Then, in 5:1, Micah returns to the siege of 
Jerusalem. This is the setting for the appearance of 
the deliverer from Bethlehem (vv. 2-5). InMicah’s 

own day it referred to the deliverance from 
Assyria (5-6). But beyond the horizon, in the dim 
distance, loomed the majestic figure of the coming 
Messianic King, who made His advent from 
eternity (“from of old, from ancient times,” v. 2) by 
way of Bethlehem. Zion’s deliverance from 
Assyria by the Angel of God (2 Kings 19:35; 2 
Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 37:35) was, in some 
respects, a foreshadowing of a coming greater 
deliverance by the Savior of all humanity. Many 
Old Testament predictions of Christ were blurred 
because they were viewed through the historic 
situations of the prophet’s own times, yet too clear 
to be mistaken. Unquestionably the eternal Ruler 
from Bethlehem (v. 2) is to be identified with the 
wonderful Child of Isaiah 9:6-7. This is the only 
place in the Old Testament where it is specifically 
stated that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem 
(see under Matthew 2:22). 





Again, the sins of Micah’s times: ingratitude 
toward God, religious pretense, dishonesty, 
idolatry — and certain punishment. 


Micah laments the prevailing treachery, violence, 
and bloodthirstiness. He promises punishment, yet 
closes with a vision of the future when God, with 
His people, shall rule and the promises to 
Abraham will be completely fulfilled at last. 


The Doom of Nineveh 

Who can withstand his indignation ? 

Who can endure his fierce anger? 

His wrath is poured out like fire; 
the rocks are shattered before him. 

— Nahum 1:6 

The Lord is good, 
a refuge in times of trouble. 

He cares for those who trust in him. 

— Nahum 1:7 

Two of the so-called Minor Prophets spoke 
exclusively to and about Nineveh, the capital of the 
Assyrian Empire: 

• Jonah, in about 770 B.c., delivered a message 
of mercy to the great city. 

• Nahum, 120 years later (650 B.c.) spoke a 
message of doom. 

• Zephaniah, a contemporary of Nahum, also 
predicted Nineveh’s destruction. 

• In addition, Isaiah, who ministered midway 
between Jonah and Nahum, predicted the fall 
of the Assyrians (Isaiah 10). 

Together they illustrate God’s way of dealing 
with nations: prolonging the day of grace, in the 
end sending punishment for sins. 

The Prophet Nahum 

Little is known of Nahum, whose name means 
“comfort.” He is identified as “the Elkoshite.” 
Since the 16th century, an Arab tradition has 
identified Elkosh with A1 Ovosh, a village near 
modern Mosul in Iraq. Byzantine writers — 
including Eusebius and Jerome — however, 

understood the prophet’s home to be somewhere in 
Galilee. Many have speculated that the New 

Testament Capernaum (“Town of Nahum”) was 
home to him, but there is no proof of this, nor are 
there any remains there from the 7th century B.c. 

Nahum’s Date 

The book itself indicates the time frame within 
which it belongs. Thebes (Hebrew name: No- 
Amon) had fallen (3:8-10; 663 b.c.). The fall of 
Nineveh, which took place in 612 B.c., is still in 
the future. Thus Nahum wrote between 663 and 
612 b.c. 

Nahum pictures Nineveh in the full swing of its 
glory. Its troubles began with the Scythian invasion 
(626 B.c.), and it may be a good guess to place this 
prophecy shortly before the Scythian invasion 
(between 630 and 624 b.c.) — which would make 
Nahum a contemporary of Zephaniah, who also 
predicted the ruin of Nineveh in language of 
amazing vividness (Zephaniah 2: 13-15). (See also 
Jonah .) 



Throughout these three chapters, in language 
spoken partly about Nineveh and partly to 
Nineveh, the city’s destruction is foretold in 
astonishing and graphic detail. 

God’s “slowness to anger” (1:3) may have 
been mentioned as a reminder of Jonah’s visit to 
Nineveh years before. God’s wrath (1:2-8), 
throughout the Bible, is the opposite of His mercy. 

The fall of “the city of blood” (3:1) would be 
news of immense joy to the world it had so 
pitilessly crushed, especially Judah. 

The great number of protecting canals along the 
edges of the walls gave Nineveh an appearance 
“like a pool [of] water” (2:8). 

Zephaniah predicted the fall of Nineveh in 
these words: “This is the carefree city that lived in 

safety. She said to herself, ‘I am, and there is none 
besides me.’ What a ruin she has become, a lair for 
wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake 
their fists” (Zephaniah2:15). 


The Invasion of Judah and the Doom of 
the Chaldeans 

“The righteous will live by his faith. ” 

— Habakkuk 2:4 

“For the earth will be filled with the 

of the glory of the Lord, 
as the waters cover the sea. ” 

— Habakkuk 2:14 

This prophecy belongs to the period between 625 
and 606 B.c, It probably dates to about 607 B.c., 
early in Jehoiakim’s reign. The Chaldeans 
(Babylonians) were sweeping westward (1:6), but 
had not yet reached Judah (3:16). 

The chronology of the period: 

641-601 B.c. King Josiah’s great 

reformation; the prophet Zephaniah. 

625 B.c. Babylon declares its independence 
from Assyria. 

612 B.c. The Babylonians destroy Nineveh. 
609 B.c, Jehoahaz reigns three months and is 
taken to Egypt. 

609-598 B.c. Jehoiakim, a very wicked king; 
the prophet Habakkuk(?) 

605 B.c, The Babylonians invade Judah and 
take captives. 

597 B.c, Jehoiachin reigns three months and 
is taken to Babylon. 

597-586 B.c, Zedekiah, a weak, wicked 
king; he is taken to Babylon. 

586 B.c. Jerusalem is burned; the land is 

Hab. 1:1-11 HABAKKUK’S 

The prophecy is a complaint to God that He allows 
His own nation to be destroyed for its wickedness 
by a nation that is even more wicked. Habakkuk 
could not see the justice in this. God’s answer is 
that He does have a purpose in the terrorizing 
conquests of the Chaldean armies. 

Hab. 1:12-2:20 HABAKKUK’S 

Acknowledging that Judah deserves correction and 
punishment for her sins, Habakkuk asks for further 
enlightenment. God’s answer is that the 
Babylonians, drunk with the blood of nations, shall 
themselves be destroyed — and God’s people shall 
yet fill the earth. 


A cry to God to again perform His miracles, as He 

had done in the past. Yet Habakkuk speaks with 
sublime resignation and confidence in the eternal 
security of God’s people (16-19). The lesson of 
the book is, “The righteous will live by his faith” 
(2:4). Faith is the ability to feel so sure of God 
that, no matter how dark the day, there is no doubt 
as to the outcome. For God’s people there is a 
glorious future. It may be a long way off, but it is 
absolutely sure. Thus, in the midst of his gloom and 
despair, Habakkuk could be an optimist of the first 


The Great Day of God Is at Hand 

Sing, O Daughter of Zion; 
shout aloud, O Israel! 

Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, 

0 Daughter of Jerusalem! 

The Lord has taken away your punishment, 
he has turned back your enemy. 

The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; 
never again will you fear any harm. 

— Zephaniah 3:14-15 

Zephaniah, who prophesied in the days of King 
Josiah (1:1), was a great-great-grandson of King 
Hezekiah (1:1), which made him a relative of King 
Josiah (641-609 B.c.). Josiah, who came to the 

throne after the 55-year-long wicked reign of 
Manasseh, brought about a great reformation (see 
under 2 Chronicles 34), in which the prophet 
Zephaniah was a prime mover. 

This prophecy was thus uttered not many years 
before Judah’s day of doom struck: in 586 B.c. the 
Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took the 
people of Judah to Babylonia. 

Zeph. 1: 1-2:3 AN IMPENDING 

The Day of Judgment — called the Day of the Lord, 
the great day of the Lord, the day of the Lord’s 
wrath — is mentioned over and over (1:7, 8, 9, 10, 
14, 15, 16, 18; 2:2, 3; 3:8). It will be a day of 
terror and is about to come upon Judah and the 
surrounding nations. This is an unmistakable 
reference to the Babylonian invasion and to 
Judah’s captivity, which followed 20 years after 
this prophecy. Finally, it may also be a sort of 
symbolic depiction of the catastrophes that will 

happen at the time of the end, pictured more fully 
in the book of Revelation. 

Molech (or Moloch) 

Molech (1:5) is the god especially of the 
Ammonites. To please some of his wives, 
Solomon introduced Molech worship in Israel 
(1 Kings 11:7). The worship of Molech 
involved child sacrifices. During and after the 
time of King Manasseh, the main place for the 
worship of Molech was the Valley of Ben 
Hinnom (2 Chronicles 33:6), whose Hebrew 
name ( ge-hinnom ) later was used as a Greek 
name for hell ( gehenna ) because of the evil 
committed there. 

Zeph. 2:4-3:8 A DAY OF WRATH 


Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron (v. 4) were cities 
of the Philistines. “Kerethite people ” (2:5) is 
another name for Philistines. Cushites (2:12): 
Cush was south of Egypt and north of Ethiopia; at 
the time of Zephaniah, a Cushite dynasty ruled 

Within 20 years all these lands — Philistia, 
Moab, Ammon, Cush, and Assyria, the terror of the 
world, with its proud capital Nineveh — would lay 
desolate under the heel of Babylon. 

The assembly of the nations and the pouring out 
of God’s wrath on them (3:8) may also be a 
foreshadowing of God’s judgment poured out of 
the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth in 
Revelation 16:1. In v. 8 God declares that the 
whole world will be consumed by fire. This may 
be a prediction of the lake of fire (Revelation 
20:14) into which all evil will be thrown, leaving 
the earth purified as described in Revelation 20- 
21 . 

Zeph. 3:9-20 THE COMING OF A 

The calm after the storm. Three times the prophet 
speaks of a remnant being saved (2:3, 7; 3:12-13), 
and twice he mentions their return from captivity 
(2:7; 3:20). Then the Lord will “purify the lips of 
the peoples” so that they may all, near and far, 
worship God. Pure lips are lips that speak truth 
and worship in truth. This is the prediction of a 
complete and perfect revelation of God. As a 
result of this revelation, converts from among all 
nations will be brought to God, joyful with glad 
songs of redemption, so that all the earth will 
resound with the praise of God’s people. 

These passages seem to predict the millennial 
reign of Christ (Revelation 20:4-6) on earth that 
will follow the tribulation. God’s final judgment of 
Satan and the inhabitants of the earth follows this 
period of peace. Then God’s grand finale presents 
us with a new heaven and a new earth that is pure 

and where God lives with His people (Revelation 
21 - 22 ). 


I I 

Make Rebuilding the Temple Your Priority 

‘The glory of this present house will be 
greater than the glory of the former house, ’ 
says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place 1 
will grant peace, ’ declares the Lord 
Almighty. ” 

— Haggai 2:9 

Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi 

These three prophets belong to the period after the 
return from the Babylonian captivity or exile 
(which is why they are also called the post-exilic 
prophets). The story of this period is told in the 
books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. (See under 

Haggai and Zechariah urged the people to 
finish rebuilding the temple, which had been begun 
but not finished (520-516 B.c.). Malachi is thought 
to have been associated with Nehemiah, nearly 
100 years later, in the rebuilding of the walls of 

The dates of Zechariah’s recorded messages 
are best correlated with those of Haggai and with 
other historical events as shown on the table 

Haggai and His Book 

Haggai may have been an old man who had seen 
the first temple (2:3). His book consists of four 
brief discourses: 1:1-11 (followed by a response 
of Zerubbabel and the people, 1:12-15); 2:1-9; 
2: 10-19; 2:20-23. 

The Situation 

Judah had been conquered, Jerusalem burned, the 
temple demolished, and the people carried away to 
Babylon (605-586 B.c,, as told in 2 Kings 24-25). 
After 70 years’ captivity, about 50,000 Jews had 

returned to their own land, by edict of King Cyrus 
(538 b.c.), and had begun to rebuild the temple. But 
soon after they laid the foundation, the work was 
stopped by their enemy neighbors. 

Nothing further was done for 15 years. In the 
meantime, a new king, Darius, had ascended the 
Persian throne. He was kindly disposed toward the 
Jews. And under the preaching of Haggai and 
Zechariah, work was resumed, and the temple was 
completed in four years (520-516 B.c.). But 
Jerusalem was still a city without a wall: the wall 
of Jerusalem was not built until about 70 years 
later, under Nehemiah. 

538 B.c. 

50,000 Jews, under Zerubbabel, return to 

536 B.c, 

In the 7th month they build the altar and offer 

535 b.c. 

In the 2nd month work on the temple begins 
and is stopped. 

August 29 Haggai’s 1st message (Haggai 1:1- 

11; Ezra 5:1). 

September 21 Resumption of the building of 
the temple (Haggai 1:12-15; Ezra 5:2). The 
rebuilding seems to have been hindered from 
536 to about 530 (Ezra 4:1-5), and the work 
ceased altogether from about 530 to 520 
(Ezra 4:24). 

October 17 Haggai ’s 2nd message (Haggai 

October/November Beginning of Zechariah’s 
preaching (Zechariah 1 : 1-6). 

December 18. Haggai’s 3rd message (Haggai 

December 18 Haggai’s 4th message (Haggai 

519-518 b.c, 

Tattenai’s letter to Darius concerning the 
rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 5:3-6:14). 
There must have been a lapse of time between 
the resumption of the building and Tattenai’s 

519 B.c. 

February 15 Zechariah’s eight night visions 

(Zechariah 1 :7— 6:8). 

February 16(?) Joshua’s crowning (Zechariah 

518 b.c, 

December 7 Urging of repentance, promise of 
blessings (Zechariah 7-8). 

516 B.c. 

March 12 Dedication of the temple (Ezra 

After 480(?) b.c, 

Zechariah’s final prophecy (Zechariah 9-14). 
458 B.c, 

Ezra comes to Jerusalem and makes certain 

444 B.c, 

Nehemiah rebuilds the wall. Period of 


Fifteen years earlier, the foundation of the temple 

had been laid (Ezra 3:10), but nothing more had 
been done since then. The people had lost interest. 
God, speaking through Haggai, informs them that 
this was the reason for their poor crops. One of the 
most insistent Old Testament teachings is that 
national adversity is due to national disobedience 
to God. 

Haggai ’s message had an immediate effect. 
People accepted it as God’s word, and in less than 
a month, work on the temple was underway. 


Within another month, the old foundations had been 
cleared sufficiently to reveal the outline of the 
building. Then Haggai came forward with his 
vision of the temple’s future, beside whose glory 
Solomon’s temple itself would pale into 

This is distinctly a messianic vision. Haggai’s 
mind was on the temple he was helping Zerubbabel 

build. But his words were God’s words, and 
God’s mind, in a sense deeper perhaps than even 
Haggai himself realized, was on another temple, 
yet to come, of which Solomon’s temple and 
Zerubbabel’s temple were but dim pictures. This 
temple would be the church, built not of stones, but 
of the souls of the redeemed (1 Corinthians 3: lb- 
17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21). This is 
the temple of which Haggai speaks. 

Shake the heavens and the earth (vv. 6-7). 
Though this may have had immediate reference to 
political upheavals, it is quoted in Hebrews 12:26 
as referring to the judgment of the nations at the 
second coming of Christ. 

The desired of all nations (v. 7) may refer to 
the Messiah. Or it may refer to people (“the highly 
esteemed, the leaders”) or articles of value, such 
as King Darius’s gift to the temple (Ezra 6:8). 

It was midwinter (v. 10). The earth had not yet 
had time to bear its crops. But the people had 
stirred themselves and had put their hands to the 
task of building God’s house. And God promises 
that henceforth their crops would be sure. Since 

we know that God’s promises are good for all 
ages, there is practical application in these verses. 
If we build only our own houses (live a self- 
centered life), our harvest in life will be limited. 
But if we make building God’s house (build the 
church, Christ’s body) our priority, then all the rest 
will be given to us and our harvest will be great. 

Haggai closes with a vision of the crowning of 
Zerubbabel, who represented David’s family (see 
under Zechariah 4). 


Rebuilding the Temple 
Visions of the Coming Messiah and His 
Universal Kingdom 

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: 
Administer true justice; show mercy and 
compassion to one another Do not oppress 
the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the 
poor In your hearts do not think evil of each 
other. ’ 

— Zechariah 7:9-10 

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! 

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! 

See, your king comes to you, 
righteous and having salvation, 

gentle and riding on a donkey, 
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 

— Zechariah9:9 

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai. Both 
ministered during the time immediately after the 
first return from the Babylonian exile, when the 
temple in Jerusalem was being rebuilt (see Returns 
from Exile (538, 458, and 444 B.c. l in the chapter 
on The Babylonian Exile and the Return from 
Exile: Ezra-Esther). While Haggai seems to have 
been an old man, it seems that Zechariah was a 
young man, for he was a grandson of Iddo, who 
had returned to Jerusalem 16 years before 
(Nehemiah 12:4, 16). 

Haggai had been preaching for two months, and 
the work on the temple had already started, when 
Zechariah began his ministry. Haggai ’s total 
recorded ministry lasted a little less than four 
months, Zechariah’s about two years. But they 
were no doubt on hand during the entire four-year 
period during which the temple was rebuilt, 
exhorting and helping. 

The book of Zechariah is considerably larger 
than that of Haggai. It teems with messianic 
flashes, mentioning many details of the life and 
work of Christ. 

Zech. 1:1-6 THE CAPTIVITY 

This opening message of Zechariah came between 
Haggai ’s second and third messages (between vv. 
9 and 10 of Haggai 2), when work on the temple 
was a little over a month along and its unimposing 
appearance and lack of splendor were 
disheartening to the people. Some people were old 
enough to remember Solomon’s temple, which had 
been destroyed more than 50 years earlier. Those 
who were born in Babylonia had heard their 
parents tell about the temple and its beauty, and 
they may well have formed a mental image of the 
old temple that was even grander than the temple 
really had been. 

Zechariah warns against their evident rising 

tendency to return to the ways of their disobedient 
fathers, which had brought them to their present 
pitiful condition in the first place. He then 
proceeds to encourage them with visions God had 
given him of the magnificent future. 

Zech. 1:7-17 THE VISION OF 

The only indication in the first six chapters as to 
the time of the visions is in 1:7, when work on the 
temple was about five months along. So we assume 
that the visions came one after the other and were 
written down at the time. 

God’s messages through the prophets generally 
came by the direct moving of God’s Spirit on a 
prophet’s mind. But here they are given through an 
angel, who talks back and forth with the prophet. 

This vision of the horses means that the whole 
world was at rest under the iron hand of the 
Persian Empire, whose king, Darius, was 
favorably disposed toward the Jews and had 

decreed that the temple should be built. This vision 
concludes with the proclamation that Jerusalem 
shall once again be a great and prosperous city 
(see below, under chapter 2). 

Zech. 1:18-21 THE VISION OF 

The four horns represent the nations that had 
destroyed Judah and Israel. The four craftsmen 
(Kjy carpenters) represent God’s destroyers of 
those nations. It was a figurative way of saying that 
the prevailing world powers would be broken and 
that Judah would again be exalted. God is on the 
throne, even when His people are temporarily 
vanquished. These verses provide insight into the 
interpretation of Revelation 13:1 and 17:12, where 
“horns” are also used to symbolize nations. 


This grand chapter is a forecast of a Jerusalem so 
populous and prosperous and secure that it will 
overflow its walls, since God Himself is its 
protection. Work on the temple, five months along, 
progressed nicely, and the people no doubt were 
making plans to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, 
which, as it turned out, was not built until 75 years 
later. But their plans to rebuild are the setting for 
this vision of the day when “many nations” shall 
come to the God of the Jews and will be His 


A pre- vision of the atonement of Christ. Joshua the 
high priest is clothed in filthy garments, 
symbolizing the sinfulness of the people. Joshua’s 
filthy garments are removed, meaning that the 

people’s sins are forgiven and they are accepted by 
God. It is a picture of the time when the sins of 
humanity will be removed “in one day” (v. 9), as 
the coming “Branch” in David’s house (the 
Messiah; v. 8 and 6:12) is “pierced” (12:10), and 
“a fountain will be opened to cleanse them from 
sin” (13:1; see further under 13:1-9). 


What is said here is meant directly for Zerubbabel 
and the temple he was building. But there is an 
unmistakable reference to a later, more glorious 
house, to be built by a descendant of Zerubbabel, 
called the Branch. It is an exhortation to take 
courage, in the day of small beginnings, by keeping 
our eyes on the grandeur of the end. The 
candlestick is a symbolic representation of God’s 
house, or the light-bearing qualities of God’s 
house. The lampstand was in the tabernacle and in 
the temple. In Revelation 1:20 the lampstand 

represents the church. The two olive trees seem to 
represent Joshua and Zerubbabel. In chapter 3 the 
vision was specially for Joshua; here it is 
specially for Zerubbabel. The imagery here is 
carried over into the vision of the “two witnesses” 
in Revelation 11. Some people believe that the 
witnesses represent Moses and Elijah. 

Zech. 5:1-4 THE FLYING 

A sheet, like an unrolled wall map, 30 feet long 
and 15 feet wide, inscribed with curses against 
stealing and swearing, soars over the land; it 
removes sin by destroying the sinners. 

Zech. 5:5-10 THE FLYING 

Another representation of the removal of sin. A 
basket, looking like a small bushel basket (the 

basket holds one ephah, or three-fifths bushel) and 
containing a woman, is taken away, out of the land, 
by two other women. While sin is here represented 
by a woman, it is also by women that she is 
removed (v. 9). Might this possibly be a prophetic 
hint that the coming Branch, the Messiah who 
would remove people’s sin in one day (3:8-9), 
would be brought into the world by a woman 
without the agency of man? The imagery here is 
somewhat similar to that of the scapegoat of 
Leviticus 16, on whose head the sins of the people 
were placed and borne away into the wilderness. 

Zech. 6:1-8 THE FOUR 

The chariots are messengers of God’s judgments, 
patrolling the earth, executing the decrees of God 
on Israel’s enemies. This is an expansion of the 
thought in the vision of the horns and the craftsmen 

I I 

Zech. 6:9-15 THE CORONATION 

This is a prophetically symbolic act, expanding on 
the vision of the Branch (3:8-9) and the vision 
about Zerubbabel (4:6-9). 

The Branch (v. 12) is the name of the coming 
Messiah in David’s family (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1, 10; 
Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-17; Revelation 5:5; 

Zerubbabel, the governor, was a grandson of 
King Jehoiachin, who had been carried to Babylon, 
and thus was heir to David’s throne. What is said 
of Zerubbabel refers in part to himself personally 
and in part to his family — that is, David’s family — 
and more particularly to the one great 
representative of David’s family, the coming 

To David’s family God had, among other 
things, assigned the task of building God’s house. 
To David himself God gave, in His own 
handwriting, the plans and specifications of the 

temple (1 Chronicles 28:11, 19), and according to 
those specifications David’s son Solomon built the 
temple (2 Chronicles 2-7), the most magnificent 
building in all the world at that time. Zerubbabel, a 
descendant of David, was now (520-516 B.c.) 
engaged in rebuilding the temple. He was assured 
that he would bring it to completion (4:6-9), with 
mystic hints of yet another temple to be built by the 
Branch, with help from “those who are far away” 

The Branch was to be of ZerubbabeTs 
(David’s) family, the kingly line (from the tribe of 
Judah). But here Joshua the priest (from the tribe of 
Levi) is crowned and is represented as the Branch, 
sitting on the throne of David (6:12-13). This 
would appear to represent a symbolic merging of 
the two offices of king and priest in the coming 


For 70 years the people had been fasting in the 
fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months (8:19) to 
mourn the destruction of the temple. Now that it 
looked as if they were soon to have a temple again, 
the question arose as to whether these fasts should 
be continued. In reply, Zechariah reminds them that 
there had been good reason for their fasts: 
penitence for past disobedience and the resulting 
suffering. But now their fasts had become a mere 
outward pretense, a way to exhibit their own 
holiness, and their religious feasts were for their 
own pleasure. 

Then, following prophetic custom of 
alternating scenes of present distress and future 
glory, Zechariah draws a picture of the age when 
fasts shall be joyful feasts (8:19). 

The Jews — once a mighty nation with ancient 
traditions that said they had been designed by their 
God to be the leading people of all the world — 
were now an insignificant and despised remnant 
who existed in their own land only by permission 
of Persian kings. Zechariah tried hard to encourage 

the people by repeating over and over that it would 
not be forever thus: soon the mighty empire that 
then ruled would be broken, and God’s people 
would yet come into their own. 

Zechariah’s picture of a prosperous and 
peaceful Zion, its streets full of happy boys and 
girls and old men and old women (8:3-5), of a 
Zion that is the center of the world’s civilization, 
where all the nations of the earth come to learn of 
the God of the Jews (8:22-23), is also found in 
other passages (1: 17; 2:4, 11; 14:8, 16). 

i l 


Chapters 9-14 contain things that have evident 
reference to the conquest by Alexander the Great 
and its aftermath, which came 200 years after 

Chapter 9 seems to be a forecast of Judah’s 
struggle with Greece. Alexander the Great, when 
he invaded Palestine in 332 B.c,, devastated the 

cities named in vv. 1-7, in the order in which they 
are named, and yet spared Jerusalem (v. 8). Verses 
13-17 seem to refer to the continuation of Judah’s 
struggle against the Greek Ptolemies and Seleucids 
into the Maccabean period (see Under Syrian Rule 
(The Seleucids) in the chapter on The 400 Years 
Between the Testaments). Throughout history and 
even today Judah (Israel) continues to struggle 
with its neighbors. 

A picture of Zion’s coming King (9:9-10) is 
here set amid scenes of Judah’s fierce struggle 
with Greece. Verse 9 is quoted in the New 
Testament as referring to the Triumphal Entry of 
Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). 
In the same breath (v. 10), the prophet sweeps 
forward to the day of final triumph — from a 
glimpse at the beginning of Messiah’s kingdom to a 
glimpse at the end. 

Chapter 10 is a forecast of the full restoration 
of God’s scattered people. In Zechariah’s day only 
a small remnant had returned. 

Chapter 11 is a parable of shepherds. God’s 
flock had been scattered and slaughtered because 

their shepherds had been false. In the arraignment 
of the false shepherds is a picture of their rejection 
of the Good Shepherd (vv. 12-13). We might not, 
from the context, connect this passage with the 
betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot, except that it 
is so quoted in the New Testament (Matthew 
26:15; 27:9-10). The fact that it is so quoted is a 
key to God’s meaning in the passage. The rejection 
of their true Shepherd was accompanied by the 
breaking of the two staffs called Favor and Union 
— that is, the covenant of God’s protecting care 
and the postponement of their reunion in the land. 
When we stray from our relationship with God, we 
withdraw from God’s protective care and fall short 
of our own land of promise and blessing. 

Then they are delivered into the hands of the 
worthless shepherd (vv. 15-17). This is thought to 
refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the 
Romans, shortly after the death of Christ, and the 
consequent scattering of the Jews (the Diaspora); 
or it may be the personification of the whole list of 
those who persecute the Jews, from the Maccabean 
period to the time of the beast of Revelation 13. 

Zech. 12-14 A VISION OF 

Chapters 9-11 are called an “oracle” (a message 
corning from God) concerning neighboring nations 
(9:1); chapters 12-14 are called an “oracle” 
concerning Israel (12:1). The two sections are 
quite similar. Both are an expansion and 
continuation of ideas in the visions of the first eight 
chapters, the same ideas recurring again and again 
in different dress. 

Judah’s coming struggle with all nations 

(12:1-6). The description of this struggle is 
continued in 14:1-8. Some consider the language 
to be a figurative representation of God’s struggle 
with the nations through the whole Christian era. 
Others apply it more literally to the time of the end. 

Mourning in the house of David (12:7-13:9). 
The thoughts here are evidently centered around 
the house of David. Though the language is 
difficult, yet it clearly depicts a tragedy of some 

kind or other that takes place in the family of 
David, an occasion for great sorrow, when some 
leading member of the family would be killed 
(13:7), his hands would be pierced (12:10; 13:6), 
and a fountain for sin would be opened (13:1). It 
was to happen in the day when “the house of David 
will be like God” (12:8). Only one member of 
David’s family was God: that one was Jesus. This 
identifies the person here referred to as the 
“Branch” of 3:8, who would “remove the sin of 
this land in a single day” (3:9) and who would 
“build the temple of the Lord” (6:12) and rule from 
sea to sea. (See also under 6:9-15.) It is an 
amazingly detailed forecast of Jesus’ death that is 
not applicable in any way to any other known 
person. Thus the death of the Branch in David’s 
family would be the source of God’s power against 
the nations (12:2-4), and its effectiveness would 
be shown in the eventual removal of idols and 
false prophets from the earth (13:2-5). 

Judah’s struggle with the nations (14:1-2). 
(See on 12: 1-6.) 

God’s victory and universal reign (14:3-21). 

This speaks of the grand consummation of the 
prophetic dreams, the day of the Lord’s return, and 
the inauguration of His everlasting kingdom. Some 
biblical scholars think that verses 4-8 mean that 
Jesus, when He returns, will literally make His 
throne on the Mount of Olives, that the mountain 
will literally be cleft, that waters literally will 
flow eastward and westward from Jerusalem, and 
that Jerusalem will literally be the center of 
pilgrimages from nations outlined inverses 10-21. 
Others take the language to be a figurative 
representation of the new heavens and the new 
earth, under the imagery of a benign, prosperous, 
and all-powerful earthly kingdom, the way 
Revelation 2 1 describes heaven under the imagery 
of a magnificent earthly city. 

Summary of Zechariah’s 
Prophecies Concerning 

• His atoning death for the removal of sin 
(3:8-9; 13:1) 

• As builder of the house of God (6:12) 

• His universal reign as King and Priest 
(6:13; 9:10) 

• Triumphal Entry (9:9, quoted in Matthew 
21:5; John 12:15) 

• Betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (11:12, 
quoted in Matthew 27:9-10) 

• His deity (12:8) 

• His hands pierced (12:10; 13:6, quoted in 
John 19:37) 

• A stricken Shepherd (13:7, quoted in 
Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27) 

Here are plain statements that not only 
forecast, in specific language, the great 
doctrines of the coming Messiah’s atoning 
death for human sin, His deity, and His 
universal kingdom, but also mention detailed 
incidents in His life, such as His entry into 
Jerusalem riding on a colt and His betrayal for 

30 pieces of silver. 


The Final Old Testament Message to a 
Disobedient Nation 

“See, I will send my messenger, who will 
prepare the way before me. Then suddenly 
the Lord you are seeking will come to his 
temple; the messenger of the covenant, 
whom you desire, will come, ” says the Lord 
Almighty. But who can endure the day of his 
coming? Who can stand when he appears? 
For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a 
launderer s soap. 

— Malachi 3 : 1-2 

Malachi ’s exact date is not known. It is generally 
accepted that he lived nearly a century after Haggai 

and Zechariah and that he worked with Ezra and 
Nehemiah in their reforms. His date is placed at 
approximately 450-400 B.c, 

The Situation 

A remnant had returned from captivity in 538 B.c. 
Under the prophetic ministry of Haggai and 
Zechariah they had rebuilt the temple (520-516 
B.c,). Then, 60 years later (458 b.c.), Ezra came to 
help reestablish the nation, and 14 years after that 
(444 B.c.), Nehemiah came and rebuilt the wall. 

Thus, in Malachi’s time the Jews had been 
home from Babylon for about 100 years, cured by 
the Exile of their idolatry, but still prone to neglect 
the house of God. The priests had become lax and 
degenerate, sacrifices were inferior, tithes were 
neglected. The people had reverted to their old 
practice of intermarrying with idolatrous neighbors 
(see on Ezra 9). 

And so the Jews, favored by God above all 
nations, had settled down in a lethargic state of 
mind to await the coming of the promised Messiah, 
who, they thought, would restore the nation to its 

former glory under King David. Malachi assured 
them that the Messiah would come, but it would 
mean judgment for them rather than glory. 


Verses 2-3 are quoted in Romans 9:10-13 as 
applying to God’s choice of Jacob instead of Esau 
(Genesis 25:22-34). Malachi actually refers to the 
two nations that sprang from Jacob and Esau, the 
Israelites and the Edomites. Both had been 
destroyed by the Babylonians. Israel had been 
restored, but Edom was still a wasteland. 

Their offering of diseased and blemished 
animals, which they would not have dared to give 
as a gift to their governor (v. 8), was an insult to 
God. Against this, Malachi envisions the day when 
the God who is thus insulted by His own nation 
will be honored by all the other nations of the 
world (v. 11). 


Priests, who had been ordained by God to lead the 
people in righteousness (vv. 5-7), were 
responsible for this deplorable situation. They had 
become so debased, mercenary, and corrupt that 
the name “priest” had become a word of contempt 
among the people. 

Loose marriage morals (vv. 10-16). Jews 
were divorcing their wives to marry non-Jewish 
women. This was a double sin, with disastrous 
effects on the proper rearing of children. 

Skepticism was at the root of their religious 
indifference and their low morals. Noticing that 
wicked nations were more prosperous, the people 
were asking, “What’s the use of serving God?” 
(See under 3:13-18.) 



Malachi’s reply to their skepticism is that the 
corning Day of Judgment will answer their taunts 
and will show whether it pays to serve God (v. 5; 
see further under 3:13-18). 


There is much debate in the church today 
whether tithing is a requirement for the New 
Testament Christian. Some classify the tithe 
as an Old Testament law that was 
superceded by the Gospel and is therefore no 
longer a requirement for the New Testament 
church. But the New Testament makes it clear 
that Jesus is a priest “in the order of 
Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6-10; 
6:20-7:28). God tells us very little about 
Melchizedek except that he was a righteous 
priest and king who blessed Abram in the 
name of the most high God and received 

tithes from Abram (Genesis 14:18-20). It is 
commonly accepted by Christians that 
Melchizedek is a type of Jesus. The New 
Testament church would be well advised to 
consider tithing, for God’s promised blessing 
is great! 

Mai. 3:7-12 TITHES 

Another abrupt change of subject. Withholding 
tithes is called “robbing God.” According to the 
Mosaic Law, one-tenth of all income was God’s 
property, to which the donor had no more right than 
he had to another man’s property. Note God’s 
promise of prosperity to faithful tithers and the 
challenge to test the validity of His promise. 





The Jews did not believe God’s promise about 
tithes. They considered that money and effort 
offered to God were wasted. Malachi’s answer is, 
Wait and see — the end will show whether it was 
indeed so (vv. 16-17). This beautiful passage 
pictures the faithful few, in a time of general 
apostasy, and God recording their names for 
recognition in “that day.” 


Four times Malachi sweeps forward to “the Day of 
the Lord” (1:11; 3:1-6, 16-18; 4:1-6). He calls it 
“The Day” (3:2, 17; 4:1, 3, 5). It seems to refer to 
the whole Christian era, with special application 
to the time of the end. 

The Closing Words of the 

Old Testament 

The final exhortation: Remember the 
Law of Moses, which I gave him! (v. 4). 
The final prediction: Elijah will usher in 
“the Day of the Lord” (v. 5). He did, 400 
years later, in the person of John the 
Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12; 11:14). This 
passage may also be predictive of 
Christ’s second coming in the day of final 
judgment. Might this also foretell Elijah as 
one of the two witnesses in Revelation 
11 ? 

The final promise: Love between 

parents and children (v. 6; quoted in Luke 
1:17), a symbolic reference to the 
promise of God’s love for His people. 

The final word: “Curse” (in both the 
Hebrew and the English text), meaning 
that the plight of mankind would be 
hopeless should the Lord fail to come. 

• Thus closes the Old Testament. Four 
hundred years later, the New Testament 
begins with the words, “A record of the 
genealogy of Jesus Christ [the Messiah]” 
(Matthew 1:1). 


Foreshadowings and Predictions of 
the Coming Messiah 

“Messiah” is the Hebrew word for “Anointed 
One” (the Greek word is Christ). Anointing was 
common in the Ancient Near East; it involved the 
applying of oil to a person (or on occasion, a 
thing). There were three kinds of anointing in the 
Old Testament: ordinary, medical, and sacred. 

• Ordinary anointing with scented oils was 
common (Ruth 3:3; Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 
27:9); it was discontinued during a time of 
mourning (2 Samuel 14:2; Daniel 10:3; 
Matthew 6:17). Guests were anointed as a 
mark of respect (Psalm 23:5; Luke 7:46). The 
dead were prepared for burial by anointing 
(Mark 14:8; 16:1). 

• Medical anointing — not necessarily with oil 
— was customary for the sick and wounded 
(Isaiah 1:6; Luke 10:34). Jesus’ disciples 
anointed with oil (Mark 6:13; James 5:14). 

• The purpose of sacred anointing was to 
dedicate the thing or person to God. Thus the 
stone Jacob used for a pillow at Bethel 
(Genesis 28:18) and the tabernacle and its 
furniture (Exodus 30:22-29) were anointed. 

More important here is the anointing of 
prophets (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22), 
priests (Exodus 28:41; 29:7; Leviticus 8:12, 30), 
and kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; 2 
Samuel 2:7; 1 Kings 1:34; 19:16). The oil 
symbolized the Holy Spirit, empowering them for a 
particular work in the service of God. Thus “the 
Lord’s anointed” was the common term for a king 
(1 Samuel 12:3; Lamentations 4:20). 

The Old Testament points toward a coming 
Redeemer who is called Anointed One (Messiah) 
twice (Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25-26). The 
expectation of a coming Messiah became 

widespread by the time of Jesus. 

The New Testament shows that Jesus is the 
expected Messiah. He was anointed with the Holy 
Spirit at His baptism (John 1:32-33), showing that 
He was indeed the Messiah (Luke 4:18, 21; Acts 
9:22; 17:2-3; 18:5, 28). That is why Jesus is given 
the title “Christ,” which is the Greek word for 
Anointed One. Jesus the Messiah — Jesus Christ — 
is anointed to be prophet, priest, and king all at 
once (Moses, Melchizedek, and David; see below, 
Genesis 14:18-20; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; 2 
Samuel 7:16). 

The following are some of the most remarkable 
foreshadowings and predictions of Jesus found 
throughout the Old Testament. 

The Pentateuch (Genesis- 

Genesis 3:15. The Seed of the Woman 

“I will put enmity between you and the 
woman, and between your offspring and 

hers; he will crush your head, and you will 
strike his heel. ” 

This seems to say that God is determined, in 
spite of Adam and Eve’s sin, to bring His creation 
of mankind to a successful end. As the Fall was set 
in motion through Eve, so will redemption come 
through woman. It will be the “seed of the 
woman,” that is, born of woman without the agency 
of man. It seems like a primeval hint of the virgin 
birth of Christ, for there has been only one 
descendant of Eve who was born of woman 
without being begotten by man. 

Genesis 4:3-5. Abel’s Offering 

In the course of time Cain brought some oj 
the fruits of the soil as an offering to the 
Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from 
some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord 
looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 
but on Cain and his offering he did not look 
with favor. 

This would seem to indicate the institution of 

blood sacrifice, right at the start, as the condition 
for humanity’s acceptance by God. It is a hint that 
stands at the beginning of a long line of pictures 
and predictions of Christ’s atoning death for human 

Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18. The Call of 

“ Through your offspring all nations on 
earth will be blessed. ” 

Here is a clear, definite statement to Abraham, 
repeated three times, that in him God was founding 
a nation for the express purpose of blessing all 
nations through it. This was the nation through 
whom the Messiah would come. 

Genesis 14:18-20. Melchizedek 

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out 
bread and wine. He was priest of God Most 
High, and he blessed Abram, saying, 
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, 
Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be 

God Most High, who delivered your enemies 
into your hand. ” Then Abram gave him a 
tenth of everything. ” 

In Psalm 110:4 it is said of the coming 
Messiah, “You are a priest forever, in the order of 
Melchizedek.” In Hebrews 7, Melchizedek, as a 
king-priest, is called a “type” (a foreshadowing) of 

Thus Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the 
coming Person who was the purpose behind the 
formation of Abraham’s nation — the Messiah, the 
Savior of mankind. Little is known about 
Melchizedek other than that he was a king-priest 
who gave blessings and received tithes. 
Melchizedek lived in Salem (Jerusalem), the same 
city where Jesus was crucified. And the bread and 
wine are a marvelous primeval picture of the 
Lord’s Supper and all that it means! 

Genesis 22:1-19. Abraham Offers Isaac 

We see a father offering his son, who was, for 
three days, as good as dead in his father’s mind 
(22:4); a substitutionary sacrifice (22:13); on 

Mount Moriah (22:2), the same place where 
Abraham had paid tithes to Melchizedek (14:18; 
Salem is on Mount Moriah), the same place where 
Jesus was crucified. 

As Melchizedek was a foreshadowing of the 
Person Abraham’s nation would bring into the 
world, so this sacrifice seems to be a 
foreshadowing of the event in that Person’s life by 
which He would do His work. What an apt picture 
of the death and resurrection of Christ! 

Genesis 26:4; 28:14. The Promise Repeated 

“All peoples on earth will be blessed 
through you and your offspring. ” 

The same promise that was made three times to 
Abraham is here repeated to Isaac and then to 

Genesis 49:10-11. “He to Whom the Scepter 
Belongs” (KJV, Shiloh) 

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor 
the ruler s staff from between his feet, until 

he comes to whom it belongs and the 
obedience of the nations is his. . . . He will 
wash his garments in wine, his robes in the 
blood of grapes. ” 

Here is the first clear, definite prediction that 
one Person would arise in Abraham’s nation to 
rule all nations (Heb. Shiloh, He whose right it is). 
He must be the One of whom Melchizedek was a 
shadow. He would appear in the tribe of Judah. 
His garments washed in the blood of grapes may 
be an image of His crucifixion. 

Exodus 12. Institution of the Passover 

Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt through the death 
of Egypt’s firstborn. The Lord spared the firstborn 
in the houses of the Israelites that were marked 
with the blood of a lamb. This feast was to be kept 
annually throughout all generations. It became 
Israel’s principal feast, observed in memory of 
their deliverance. 

The Passover was celebrated for 1,400 years, 
the central feast of the Hebrew nation. It was 
unmistakably designed by God to foreshadow the 

basic event of human redemption, the death of 
Christ, the Lamb of God. He died on the cross at a 
Passover feast, bringing eternal deliverance from 
sin for those marked with His blood, even as the 
first Passover brought deliverance from Egypt for 
Israel. It shows how much God’s mind was on the 
coming of Christ long before He came. 

Leviticus 16. The Day of Atonement 

The Day of Atonement took place once a year. It 
involved two goats. One was killed as a sin- 
offering. The high priest laid hands on the head of 
the other, called the scapegoat, confessing the 
people’s sin. Then the scapegoat was led away and 
let go in the wilderness. 

This, and the whole system of Levitical 
sacrifices that were so much part of Hebrew life, 
are clear, historical foreshadowings of the atoning 
death of the coming Messiah. 

Numbers 21:6-9. The Bronze Snake 

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among 
them; they bit the people and many 

Israelites died. The people came to Moses 
and said, “We sinned when we spoke against 
the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord 
will take the snakes away from us. ” So 
Moses prayed for the people. 

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake 
and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten 
can look at it and live. ” So Moses made a 
bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then 
when anyone was bitten by a snake and 
looked at the bronze snake, he lived. 

This happened in the wilderness, after the 
Exodus, on the way to the Promised Land. Jesus 
understood this to be a picture of Himself being 
lifted up on the cross (John 3:14). Mankind, bitten 
by sin in the Garden of Eden, may look to Him and 

Numbers 24:17, 19. The Star 

“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter 
will rise out of Israel. ... A ruler will come 
out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the 

Here is another definite prediction of a person, 
a brilliant ruler: evidently meaning the same 
person as “He to whom the scepter belongs” (KJY 
Shiloh) of Genesis 49:10, who is to rule the 

Deuteronomy 18:15-19. A Prophet Like Moses 

The Lord your God will raise up for you a 
prophet like me from among your own 
brothers. You must listen to him. For this is 
what you asked of the Lord your God at 
Horeb on the day of the assembly when you 
said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord 
our God nor see this great fire anymore, or 
we will die. ” 

The Lord said to me: “What they say is 
good. I will raise up for them a prophet like 
you from among their brothers; I will put my 
words in his mouth, and he will tell them 
everything I command him. If anyone does 
not listen to my words that the prophet 

speaks in my name, I myself will call him to 
account. ” 

God would raise up a prophet like Moses, 
through whom God would speak to mankind. 

Thus, in the first five books of the Old 
Testament there is a specific prediction, repeated 
five times, that the Hebrew nation was established 
for the one express purpose of blessing all nations. 

These books also contain specific predictions 
that there would be one Person through whom the 
nation would fulfill its mission. And there are 
various hints about the nature of this Person’s 
work, especially His sacrificial death. Thus some 
leading characteristics of Christ’s life were drawn, 
in fairly distinct lines, some 1,400 years before 
Christ came. 

The Other Historical Books 


This book seems to have no direct prediction of the 
Messiah, though Joshua himself is thought, in a 
sense, to have been a type (foreshadowing) of 
Jesus. The names are the same: “Jesus” is the 
Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua.” As Joshua led 
Israel into the Promised Land, so Jesus will lead 
His people into heaven. 


And they named him Obed. He was the father 
of Jesse, the father of David (4:17). 

Ruth was the great-grandmother of David. 
Boaz was of Bethlehem and was a kinsman- 
redeemer who acquired Ruth as his wife. Boaz is a 
type (foreshadowing) of Christ, who was born 
1,100 years later in Bethlehem. Christ was also a 
kinsman-redeemer, as He paid a price, with His 
blood, to acquire the church (often referred to as 
the bride of Christ). 

1 Samuel 16. David 

David is anointed king over Israel. From here on, 
David is the central figure of Old Testament 
history. The most specific and most abundant of all 
messianic prophecies cluster around his name. 
Abraham was the founder of the messianic nation, 
and David the founder of the messianic family 
within the nation. 

2 Samuel 7:16. David Is Promised an Eternal 

“Your throne will be established forever. ” 

Here begins a long line of promises that 
David’s family will reign forever over God’s 

This promise is repeated over and over 
throughout the rest of the Old Testament, with an 
ever-increasing mass of detail and specific 
explanations: the promise will find its ultimate 
fulfillment in one great King, who will Himself 
live forever and establish a kingdom of endless 

This eternal King evidently is the same person 

previously spoken of as a priest after the order of 
Melchizedek, “He to whom the scepter belongs” 
(KJV Shiloh), the Star, and the Prophet like 

1 Kings 9:5. The Promise Repeated to Solomon 

“I will establish your royal throne over 
Israel forever. ” 

The promise is repeated over and over to 
David and Solomon. 

However, the books of Kings and Chronicles 
relate the story of the fall of David’s kingdom and 
the exile of the Hebrew nation, apparently bringing 
to naught God’s promise to David’s family of an 
eternal throne. 

But in the period covered by these books, many 
prophets cried out that the promise would yet be 

The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther 
relate the story of the return of the fallen and 
scattered Hebrew nation, without direct messianic 
predictions. However, the reestablishment of the 

nation in its own land was a necessary antecedent 
to the fulfillment of promises about David’s throne. 

Poetic Books (Job-Song of 

Job 19:25-27. “My Redeemer Lives” 

The book of Job is a discussion of the problem of 
suffering, without much direct bearing, as far as we 
can see, on the messianic mission of the Hebrew 
nation — except in Job’s exultant outburst of faith, 
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the 
end he will stand upon the earth.” 


The book of Psalms, written mostly by David 
himself, is full of predictions and foreshadowings 
of the eternal King who would come out of 
David’s family. Some of them, in a limited and 
secondary sense, may refer to David himself. But 
on the whole they are inapplicable to any person in 
history other than Christ — written 1000 years 

before Christ came. 

Psalm 2. The Lord’s Anointed 

The kings of the earth take their stand and 
the rulers gather together against the Lord 
and against his Anointed One (v. 2). .. . “1 
have installed my King on Zion, my holy 
hill” (v. 6). .. . ‘‘You are my Son” (v. 7). .. . 
“I will make the nations your inheritance” 
(v. 8). . . . Kiss the Son. . . . Blessed are all 
who take refuge in him (v. 12). 

Evidently meaning that the eternal King is to 
arise in David’s family. A very positive statement 
as to His deity, His universal reign, and the 
blessedness of those who trust Him. 

Psalm 16:10. His Resurrection 

You will not abandon me to the grave, nor 
will you let your Holy One see decay. 

This is quoted in Acts 2:27, 31 as referring to 
the resurrection of Christ. There had been many 
hints of the coining Messiah’s death. Here is a 

clear-cut prediction of His victory over death and 
of life forevermore. 

Psalm 22. A Fore-Picture of the Crucifixion 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken 
me? ” ( v. : 1). 

Even His dying words are foretold (Matthew 

“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, 
shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the Lord; 
let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, 
since he delights in him ’ ” (vv. 7-8). 

Sneers of His enemies, in their exact words 
(Matthew 27:43). 

“Thev have pierced my hands and my feet" 
(v. 16). 

This indicates crucifixion as the manner of His 
death (John 20:20, 25). 

“They divide my garments among them and 
cast lots for my clothing” (v. 18). 

Even this detail is forecast (Matthew 27:35). 

What can all this refer to except the crucifixion 
of Jesus? Yet it was written 1000 years before it 

Psalm 41:9. To Be Betrayed by a Friend 

My close friend, whom I trusted, he who 
shared my bread, has lifted up his heel 
against me. 

Apparently David is referring to his own 
friend, Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:12). But Jesus 
quoted it as a foreshadowing of His betrayal by 
Judas (John 13:18-27; Luke 22:47-48). 

Psalm 45. The Reign of God’s Anointed 

God, your God, has set you above your 
companions by anointing you with the oil oj 
joy (v. 7). 

Your throne, O God, will last for ever and 
ever (v. 6). 

In your majesty ride forth victoriously (v. 4). 

I will perpetuate your memory through all 
generations; therefore the nations will 
praise you for ever and ever (v. 17). 

Here is depicted the glorious reign of a king, 
bearing the name of God, seated on an eternal 
throne. It can refer to no other than the eternal King 
who would come from David’s family. It is a 
wedding song of Christ and His bride, the church. 

Psalm 69:21. Gall and Vinegar 

They put gall in my food and gave me 
vinegar for my thirst. 

Another incident in the corning Messiah’s 
sufferings (Matthew 27:34, 48). 

Psalm 72. His Glorious Reign 

In his days the righteous will flourish (v. 7). 

He will rule from sea to sea and from the 
River to the ends of the earth (v. 8). 

All Kings will bow down to him and all 

nations will serve him (v. 11). 

Praise be to his glorious name forever; may 
the whole earth be filled with his glorv (v. 

This psalm seems, in part, to have been a 
description of the reign of Solomon. But some of 
its statements, and its general tenor, surely refer to 
One who will be greater than Solomon. 

Psalm 78:2. To Speak in Parables 

1 will open my mouth in parables. 

Another detail of the Messiah’s life: His 
method of teaching in parables. This verse is 
quoted in Matthew 1 3 : 34-3 5 . 

Psalm 89. The Endlessness of David’s Throne 

“I have made a covenant with my chosen 
one, I have sworn to David” (v. 3). 

“I will establish your line forever and make 
your throne firm through all generations ” (v. 


“I will also appoint him my firstborn, the 
most exalted of the kings of the earth” (v. 

27) . 

“My covenant with him will never fail” (v. 

28) . 

“ I have sworn by my holiness — and I will 
not lie to David. . . . his throne . . . will be 
established forever ” (vv. 35 37). 

God’s oath, repeated over and over, that 
David’s throne will be forever, under God’s 

Psalm 110. Messiah to Be King and Priest 

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right 
hand until I make your enemies a footstool 
for your feet” (v. 1). 

“You are a priest forever, in the order oj 
Melchizedek” (v. 4). 

The eternal dominion and eternal priesthood of 
the coming King. Jesus quoted this as referring to 

Himself in Matthew 2:42-44. 

Psalm 118:22. Messiah to Be Rejected by 

The stone the builders rejected has become 
the capstone. 

Jesus quoted this as referring to Himself in 
Matthew 2 1 : 42-44. 

The Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) 

i i 

Isaiah 2:2-4. A Magnificent Vision of the 
Messianic Age 

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s 
temple will be established as chief among 
the mountains; . . . all nations will stream to 
it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, 
let us go up to . . . the house of the God oj 
Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we 
may walk in his paths. ” The law will go out 
from Zion, the word of the Lord from 

Jerusalem. He will judge between the 
nations and will settle disputes for many 
peoples. They will beat their swords into 
plowshares and their spears into pruning 
hooks. Nation will not take up sword against 
nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 

Isaiah is the preeminent book of messianic 
prophecy in the Old Testament. His language is 
unsurpassed in all literature as he goes into ecstasy 
over the glories of the reign of the coming 

Isaiah 4:2, 5-6. The Branch of the Lord 

In that day the Branch of the Lord will be 
beautiful and glorious. . . . Then the Lord 
will create over all of Mount Zion and over 
those who assemble there a cloud of smoke 
by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; 
over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be 
a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, 
and a refuge and hiding place from the 
storm and rain. 

The Messiah is here represented as a branch 
that grows up out of the stump of the family tree of 
David, becoming a guide and refuge for His 
people. (See comments on Isaiah 11:1-10.) 

Isaiah 7:13-14. Immanuel 

“Hear now, you house of David! . . . The 
virgin will be with child and will give birth 
to a son, and will call him Immanuel. ’’ 

This seems to say that someone who will be 
called Immanuel will be born in David’s family, of 
a virgin. This evidently refers to the same person 
as the branch of 4:2 and 11:1, and the wonderful 
child of 9:6. The deity of the child is implied in the 
name Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Thus 
the virgin birth and the deity of the Messiah are 
here foretold. It is quoted in Matthew 1:23 as 
referring to Jesus. 

Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7. The Wonderful Child 

In . . . Galilee . . . the people walking in 
darkness have seen a great light;. . . For to 

us a child is born, to us a son is given: and 
the government will be on his shoulders. And 
he will be called Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince oj 
Peace. Of the increase of his government 
and peace there will be no end. He will reign 
on David’s throne and over his kingdom, 
establishing and upholding it with justice 
and righteousness from that time on and 

This child, unmistakably, is the eternal King 
promised to David’s family (2 Samuel 7:16). It is 
the same person spoken of centuries earlier as “He 
to whom the scepter belongs” (KJV| Shiloh), the 
Star, and the Prophet like Moses. His deity is here 
emphasized. His ministry will be in Galilee. 
Altogether a very accurate forecast of Jesus. 

Isaiah 11:1-10. The Reign of the Branch 

A shoot will come up from the stump oj 
Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear 
fruit (v. 1). 

That is, a shoot out of the stump of David’s 
family tree — the Messiah. 

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the 
Spirit of wisdom and of understanding (v. 2). 

The Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for 
the peoples; the nations will rally to him (v. 
10 ). 

He will strike the earth with the rod of his 
mouth (v. 4). 

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard 
will lie down with the goat, the calf and the 
lion and the yearling together; and a little 
child will lead them. The cow will feed with 
the bear ; their young will lie down together; 
and the lion will eat straw like the ox (vv. 6 - 


They will neither harm nor destroy on all my 
holy mountain, for the earth will be full oj 
the knowledge of the Lord as the waters 
cover the sea (v. 9). 

A magnificent description of universal peace in 
the world-to-be under the reign of the coining 

Isaiah 25:6-9; 26:1, 19. The Resurrection of the 

On this mountain the Lord . . . will swallow 
up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will 
wipe away the tears from all faces (25:6, 8). 

In that day . . . your dead will live; their 
bodies will rise. . . . The earth will give birth 
to her dead (26:1, 19). 

A forecast of both the resurrection of Jesus on 
Mount Zion and a general resurrection. 

Isaiah 35:5-6. Messiah’s Miracles 

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened 
and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then 
will the lame leap like a deei; and the mute 
tongue shout for joy. 

An exact description of Jesus’ ministry of 


Isaiah 35:8-10. Messiah’s Highway 

A highway will be there . . . called the way oj 

“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They 
will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy 
will crown their heads. Gladness and joy 
will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing 
will flee away. ” 

Holiness, happiness, singing, joy — there will 
be no more sorrow or tears, ever, for the people of 
the coming Messiah. 

Isaiah 40:5, 10-11. Messiah’s Tenderness 

“The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and 
all mankind together will see it. ”... See, 
the Sovereign Lord comes with power ; and 
his arm rules for him. . . . He tends his flock 
like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his 
arms and carries them close to his heart; he 
gently leads those that have young. 

Another preview of the glory of Jesus, His 
power, and His gentleness toward the weak of His 

Isaiah 42:1-11, Gentiles 

“Here is my servant” (v. 1). . . . “I will keep 
you and will make you to be a covenant for 
the people and a light for the Gentiles” (v. 
6). . . . “In his law the islands will put their 
hope” (v. 4). .. . Sing to the Lord a new 
song, his praise from the ends of the earth (v. 
10 ). 

Israel’s coining King will rule over Gentiles 
also, and they will cover the whole earth with 
songs of praise and joy. 

Isaiah 53. The Messiah’s Sufferings 

Who has believed our message and to whom 
has the arm of the Lord been revealed? . . . 
He was despised and rejected by men, a man 
of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. . . . 
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried 

our sorrows. . . . But he was pierced for our 
transgressions, he was crushed for our 
iniquities; the punishment that brought us 
peace was upon him, and by his wounds we 
are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone 
astray, each of us has turned to his own 
way; and the Lord has laid on him the 
iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and 
afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he 
was led like a lamb to the slaughter. ... Yet 
it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause 
him to suffer. ... By his knowledge my 
righteous servant will justify many, and he 
will bear their iniquities . . . because he 
poured out his life unto death. 

The most conspicuous feature in the prophecies 
about the coming King is that He would suffer. It 
was hinted at in Abel’s sacrifice and in Abraham’s 
offering of Isaac. It was vividly foreshadowed in 
the institution of the Passover feast and in the 
annual Day of Atonement. Some of the details of 
His suffering are described in Psalm 22. And here 

in Isaiah 53, detail upon detail is added, making 
the picture more complete. 

In chapters 54, 55, 60, and 61, the suffering 
King fills the earth with songs of joy. 

Isaiah 60. To Be Light of the World 

“See, darkness covers the earth ” (v. 2). 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and 
the glory of the Lord rises upon you ’’ (v. 1). 

“The Lord will be your everlasting light, 
and your days of sorrow will end ” (v. 20). 

In the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly 
called the Light of the World. 

Isaiah 62:2; 65: 15. A New Name 

You will be called by a new name (62:2). 

“But to his servants he will give another 
name ” (65:15). 

In Old Testament times, God’s people were 
called Israelites. Since the days of Christ, they 

have been called Christians. 

Jeremiah 23:5-6. The Branch 

“The days are coming, ” declares the Lord, 
“when I will raise up to David a righteous 
Branch, a King. . . . This is the name by 
which he will be called: The Lord Our 
Righteousness. ” 

Isaiah 4 and 1 1 speak of the corning King as a 
branch out of the family of David. Here Jeremiah 
repeats that name and asserts His deity. 

Ezekiel 37:24-25. The Prince of the House of 

“My servant David will be king over them, 
and they will all have one shepherd. They 
will follow my laws and be careful to keep 
my decrees. They will live in the land I gave 
to my servant Jacob, the land where your 
fathers lived. They and their children and 
their children’s children will live there 
forever, and David my servant will be their 

prince forever. ” 

A glorious vision of the ultimate fulfillment of 
God’s promise to David. Not only will the 
Messiah, David’s descendant, be a good shepherd 
to His people, but also the people will live by 
God’s laws in a kingdom of peace. 

Ezekiel 47:1-12. The Life-giving Stream 

I saw water coming out from under the 
threshold of the temple toward the east. . . . 
As the man went eastward with a measuring 
line in his hand, he measured off a thousand 
cubits and then led me through water that 
was ankle-deep. He measured off another 
thousand cubits and led me through water 
that was knee-deep. He measured off 
another thousand and led me through water 
that was up to the waist. He measured off 
another thousand, but now it was a river 
that I could not cross, because the water had 
risen and was deep enough to swim in — a 
river that no one could cross. . . . He said to 

me, “ This water flows toward . . . the Sea. 
When it empties into the Sea, the water there 
becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures 
will live wherever the river flows. . . . Fruit 
trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of 
the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor 
will their fruit fail. . . . Their fruit will serve 
for food and their leaves for healing. ” 

In describing the reign of the Prince, Ezekiel 
presents a transcendently beautiful picture of the 
life-giving impact of God’s presence under the 
image of a stream flowing from the temple out to 
the whole world. 

Daniel 2. The Four Kingdoms 

“In the time of those kings, the God of 
heaven will set up a kingdom that will never 
be destroyed, nor will it be left to another 
people. It will crush all those kingdoms and 
bring them to an end, but it will itself endure 
forever” (v. 44). 

In the nearly 600 years from Daniel to Christ 

there were four world empires: Babylon, Persia, 
Greece, and Rome. They are exactly described in 
the imagery of this second chapter of Daniel. In 
Daniel 7 the same four empires are described more 
fully. It was in the days of the Roman Empire that 
Christ appeared. 

Hosea 1:10. The Gentiles Will Be Included 

“In the place where it was said to them, ‘You 
are not my people, ’ they will be called ‘sons 
of the living God. ’ 

Here Hosea repeats what has already been said 
time and again, that the Messiah’s kingdom will 
include all nations. 

Hosea 11:1. Out of Egypt 

“Out of Egypt I called my son. ” 

A way of saying that part of the Messiah’s 
childhood would be spent in Egypt (Matthew 

Joel 2:28, 32; 3:13-14. The Gospel Era 

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. . . . 
And everyone who calls on the name of the 
Lord will be saved. . . . Swing the sickle, for 
the harvest is ripe. ”... Multitudes, 
multitudes in the valley of decision ! 

The Messiah will institute an era of world 
evangelization under the leadership of the Holy 
Spirit (Acts 2:16-21). 

Amos 9:11-14. David’s Fallen Throne to Rise 

“I will bring back my exiled people Israel; 
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in 
them ” (v. 14). 

“In that day I will restore David’s fallen 
tent ... so that they may possess the 
remnant of Edom and all the nations that 
bear my name ” (vv. 11-12). 

Israel will be restored, as will the dynasty of 
David, in the person of the Messiah (Christ). But 
the Messiah’s rule will not be limited to Israel 
alone — it will include the Gentiles as well (see 

Acts 15:12-21). 

Jonah 1:17. A Sign to Nineveh 

Jonah was inside the fish three days and three 

Jesus took this to be a foreshadowing of His 
own death and resurrection — a sign to the world 
(Matthew 12:40). 

Micah 5:2-5. Bethlehem to Be Messiah’s 

“You, Bethlehem, . . . out of you will come 
for me one who will be ruler over Israel, 
whose origins are . . .from ancient times. . . . 
For then his greatness will reach to the ends 
of the earth. And he will be their peace. ” 

Micah evidently refers to the King so often 
mentioned before. 

Zephaniah 3:9. A New Language 

“Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, 
that all of them may call on the name of the 

Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. ” 

That is, the people will know and serve God, 
purified by the Gospel of Christ. 

Haggai 2:6-7. The Desire of All Nations 

“A little while . . . and the desired of all 
nations will come, and . . . fill this house 
with glory. ” 

That will be the crowning day for David’s Son, 
here typified inZerubbabel (2:23). 


“I am going to bring my servant, the 
Branch ” (3:8). 

"Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your 
king comes to you, . . . gentle and riding on 
a donkey" (9:9). 

"On that dav . . . the house of David will be 
like God" (12:8). 

"I will remove the sin of this land in a single 

day” (3:9). 

So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. ... So 
I .. . threw them into the house of the Lord 
to the potter (11: 12 13). 

“ They will look on me, the one they have 
pierced ” (12:10). 

“ On that day a fountain will be opened . . . 
to cleanse them from sin and impurity” 

It is doubtful that Zechariah himself understood 
the exact meaning of all these prophecies, some of 
which refer to very specific events in the life of 
Jesus (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). But looking back, we 
can see how these prophecies have been fulfilled 
in Jesus. 

Malachi 3:1; 4:5. A Forecast of John the Baptist 

“See, I will send my messenger . . . the 
prophet Elijah before that great and 
dreadful day of the Lord comes . . . who will 
prepare the way before me. ” 

In Matthew 11:7-14, Jesus, speaking of John 
the Baptist, quotes this passage from Malachi and 
expressly states that it refers to John the Baptist. 

The 400 Years Between 
the Testaments 


The world of the New Testament is very different 
from that of the Old Testament. The changes that 
took place over four centuries affected every area 
of life. Many of these changes are interrelated. 

Political and Cultural Changes 

• The Romans, instead of the Persians, now 
control Palestine. 

• Greek thought and culture (Hellenism), rather 
than the gods of the Canaanites such as Baal 
and Molech, now threaten to derail God’s 

Geographical Changes 

• Palestine is divided into Judea, Galilee, 
Samaria; on the east side of the Jordan River 

are Perea and the Decapolis. Furthermore, 
there are now (sometimes sizable) Jewish 
communities in most major cities of the 
Roman Empire, each with its own synagogue. 
This is referred to as the Diaspora, or 

Religious Changes 

• Religious parties: The parties of the 

Pharisees and Sadducees (as well as the 
political parties of the Zealots and 

Herodians) did not exist in the Old 

• Religious functionaries: Teachers of the 

Law (“scribes”) and rabbis (teachers) play a 
prominent role. The chief priests as a group 
with its own identity is not found in the Old 

• Religious institutions: The temple and the 

temple area have been transformed from the 
modest structure built by the post-exilic Jews 

into a magnificent complex. In addition, each 
town now has a synagogue , a place for 
worship and study of the Word of God. 

Language and Writings 

• The common language in Palestine is no 
longer Hebrew but Aramaic. The language of 
commerce and communications throughout the 
Roman Empire is Greek. 

• These changes in language necessitated 

translations of the Hebrew Bible (our Old 
Testament): the Septuagint, a Greek 

translation, and the Targums, Aramaic 

We will look at each of these in more detail. 

A. Four Centuries of Political 

1. The Persian Period, 430-332 b.c. 

The story of the Old Testament ends around 430 
B.c. with the prophet Malachi. The Babylonians, 
who had destroyed Jerusalem in 586 b.c., had been 
conquered by the Medes and Persians. The Persian 
king Cyrus allowed the Jews to go back to 
Jerusalem in 536 B.c. Under Ezra and Nehemiah, 
the temple and the city walls were rebuilt. Thus, at 
the close of the Old Testament, Judah was a 
Persian province. 

Not much is known of Jewish history during 
this period, except that Persian rule was, for the 
most part, mild and tolerant. (For Persian kings of 
this period, see sidebar The Persian Empire in the 
chapter on The Babylonian Exile and the Return 
from Exile: Ezra-Esther.) 

2. The Greek Period, 331-167 b.c. 

Up to this time, the great powers of the world had 
been in Asia and Africa. But looming ominously on 
the western horizon was the rising power of 

The beginnings of Greek history are veiled in 
myth, ft is thought to have begun about the 12th 

century B.C., the time of the biblical book of 
Judges. The Trojan War, immortalized in Homer’s 
Iliad and Odyssey, took place around 1000 B.c. — 
the age of David and Solomon. 

The beginning of authentic Greek history has 
usually been reckoned from the first Olympiad in 
776 B.c. (which is within a few years of the 
founding of the city of Rome, which according to 
tradition took place in 753 B.c.). Greek culture and 
art were spectacularly original and creative 
(unlike later Roman art, which was much more 
severe and imitative). Greek culture reached its 
zenith in the city of Athens in the 5th century B.c., 
the Golden Age of Greece. This was the era of the 
great statesmen, philosophers, and dramatists (see 
Athens in the chapter Acts). 

This Golden Age of Greece was approximately 
the same period during which the temple and walls 
of Jerusalem were rebuilt under Zerubbabel, Ezra, 
and Nehemiah after the Babylonian exile. 

Alexander the Great was the son of King Philip 
of Macedonia, north of Greece. In 336 b.c., at the 
age of 20, he assumed command of the Greek army 

and swept eastward over the lands that had been 
under the rule of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and 
Persia. By 33 1 B.c. the whole world lay at his feet. 

When Alexander invaded Palestine in 332 b.c., 
he showed great consideration toward the Jews, 
spared Jerusalem, and offered the Jews 
inducements to settle in Alexandria, Egypt. He 
established Greek cities all over his conquered 
domains, with the intent of spreading Greek culture 
and the Greek language throughout the world. After 
a brief reign, he died in 323 B.c. at the age of 33. 
His empire did not last, but his dream did: Greek 
language and culture (Hellenism) would dominate 
the world for many centuries (see The Diaspora, or 
Dispersion in the chapter The 400 Years Between 
the Testaments). 

Under Egyptian Rule (The Ptolemies) 

After Alexander’s death, his empire was divided 
among four of his generals. Palestine lay between 
the two eastern sections of the empire, Syria and 
Egypt. Syria went to Seleucus (who was the first of 
the Seleucid dynasty), Egypt to Ptolemy (the first 

of the Ptolemies). Palestine went first to Syria, but 
shortly thereafter passed to Egypt (301 B.c.) and 
remained under Egyptian control until 198 B.c, 

Under the Ptolemies the condition of the Jews 
was mainly peaceful. During this period, 
Alexandria in Egypt became an influential center 
of Judaism. 

Under Syrian Rule (The Seleucids) 

King Antiochus the Great of Syria recaptured 
Palestine in 198 B.c,, which thus passed back to the 
kings of Syria, the Seleucids. Initially the 
Seleucids were tolerant toward the Jews, but that 
soon changed. 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.c.) was 
frustrated by the Jews’ refusal to give up their 
religion and identity. He turned violently bitter 
against them and made a furious and determined 
effort to exterminate them and their religion. He 
devastated Jerusalem (168 b.c.) and desecrated the 
temple by offering a pig (a ceremonially unclean 
animal according to the Law of Moses) on its altar. 
He then put an altar to Zeus — the main Greek god, 

called Jupiter by the Romans — in the temple, 
prohibited temple worship, forbade circumcision 
on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families 
into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that 
could be found, slaughtered everyone discovered 
in possession of such copies, and resorted to every 
conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their 
religion. This led to one of the most heroic feats in 
history — the Maccabean revolt. 

3. A Century of Independence (The Maccabean 
Period, 167-63 b.c.) 

This period is called the Maccabean, Hasmonean, 
or Asmonean period. Mattathias, a priest of intense 
patriotism and unbounded courage, was infuriated 
by the attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes to destroy 
the Jews and their religion. He gathered a group of 
loyal Jews and raised the standard of revolt. He 
had five heroic and warlike sons: Judas, Jonathan, 
Simon, John, and Eleazar. 

Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem. This is one of three pools 
built at different levels. An aqueduct carried the water from the 
pools to Jerusalem, 45 miles away. It is a remarkable feat of 
engineering, since there is a 300-foot drop between the pools 
and Jerusalem. These probably date from the Hasmonean 
(Maccabean) period (2nd cent. B.C.), although tradition says 
they were built by Solomon. 

Mattathias died in 166 B.c, His mantle fell 
upon his son Judas, who was a warrior of amazing 
military genius. He won battle after battle against 
unbelievable and impossible odds. He captured 
Jerusalem in 165 B.c. and purified and rededicated 

the temple. This was the origin of the Feast of 
Hanukkah, which means Feast of Dedication (also 
called the Feast of Lights). Judas united the 
priestly and civil authority in himself and thus 
established the line of Hasmonean priest-rulers 
who for the next 100 years governed an 
independent Judea. They were Mattathias (167 — 
166 b.c.); Judas, his son (166-161); Jonathan, 
Judas’s brother (161-144); Simon, Jonathan’s 
brother (144-135); John Hyrcanus (135-106), son 
of Jonathan; and Aristobulus and his sons ( 106— 
63), who were unworthy of the Maccabean name. 

4. The Roman Period (63 b.c.-a.d. 636) 

Two rivals for the office of high priest both 
appealed to Rome for help. The Roman general 
Pompey came in 63 B.c. and decided to resolve the 
dispute by making Palestine part of the Roman 
Empire. Antipater, an Idumean (Edomite, 
descendant of Esau), was appointed ruler of Judea. 
He was succeeded by his son, Herod the Great, 
who was king of Judea 37-4 b.c, Herod was a 
shrewd politician who managed to get himself in 

the good graces of the Jews. One of the means was 
rebuilding and expanding the temple in 
spectacularly beautiful fashion. But he was a 
brutal, cruel man. He had his first wife, Mariamne, 
killed, and later also three of his sons. This is the 
Herod who ruled Judah when Jesus was born, and 
it was he who had the children of Bethlehem killed 
(see the article on The Children of Bethlehem 
Killed by Herod in the chapter Matthew; for the 
Herodian family, see maps: The House of Herod T 

Burial place of the Maccabeans at Modin, the place where the 
Jewish revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes began that led to 
the last independent Jewish state (166-63 B.C.) until the 
establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. 

B. Geographical Changes 

1. Palestine 

At the close of the Old Testament, Palestine was a 
Persian province. In the time of Christ, the land of 

Palestine was divided into three regions or 
provinces: Galilee in the north, Samaria in the 
center, and Judea in the south. East of the Jordan 
River were Perea and the Decapolis. 

History played a major role in how the people 
in these regions viewed each other. 

Galilee is an area of about 50 by 30 miles. It 
was a fertile area, crossed by major trade routes. 
When the kingdom of David and Solomon was 
divided, the northern kingdom that seceded 
consisted more or less of what in the New 
Testament would be called Galilee and Samaria. 
When the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 
722 B.c., the population was deported to Assyria, 
and in its place pagan immigrants were brought in 
to settle the area. This is why the area is referred 
to as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 9:1; 
Matthew 4:15). 

Herod the Great was an almost compulsive builder. In addition 
to Caesarea (see map: Herod’s Caesarea , and 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Caesarea in Acts) and the temple 
in Jerusalem, he built a number of palace-fortresses, among 
them Masada (see photos of Masada), Machaerus, where 
John the Baptist was beheaded, and the Herodion or 

The Herodion was built within view of Jerusalem, into the top 
of a hill. The excavated soil was added to the outside of the hill 
to give it its volcano-like appearance (top). In the plain below, 
Herod built another large palace, a large pool (below), and 
residences for his staff. 

From the air, the plan of the palace can clearly be seen, with 
its four towers and double walls (top). Inside (above) Herod 
must have felt safe, since there was only one entrance with a 
staircase of 200 white marble steps. 

The non-Jewish element may have had a 
negative impact on Jewish worship and religious 
practices among the Galileans, who were readily 
identifiable by their accent and dialect (Matthew 
26:73). The people from Judea looked down on 
Galileans, as Nathanael’s question shows: 

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” 
(John 1:46), as does the sentiment that no prophet 
could come out of Galilee (John 7:52). Yet this is 
where Jesus spent most of his ministry. 

Samaria was slightly smaller than Galilee. The 
city of Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians in 
722 B.c., and its inhabitants were deported. In 
Jesus’ day, the population of Samaria, like that of 
Galilee, consisted of a mixture of Israelites who 
had managed somehow to escape deportation and 
new immigrants of non-Israelite origin. The 
Samaritans developed their own type of Yahweh 
worship, based on the five books of Moses alone, 
and built a temple on Mount Gerizim. (There are 
still Samaritans today who celebrate the Passover 
on Mount Gerizim, near the ruins of their temple.) 

When the Jews returned under Ezra and 
Nehemiah, the Samaritans wanted to take part in 
the rebuilding of the temple, but were rebuffed. 
Around that time a group of Jewish dissidents left 
Jerusalem and went to live in Samaria. All this led 
to a permanent religious and political rift between 
Jews and Samaritans. Jews avoided traveling 

through Samaria if at all possible, and it is easy to 
underestimate how remarkable Jesus’ trip through 
Samaria was (John 4:1-42) and how strong the 
mixed emotions were that were generated by the 
parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). 

Judea was more or less the territory of the old 
kingdom of Judah (Judea is the Latinized form of 
Judah). It was approximately 55 by 55 miles, 
although its boundaries were never precisely fixed. 
After the death of Herod, his son Archelaus 
became ruler, but was banished by the Romans, 
who annexed Judea to the province of Syria. Judea 
was under direct Roman control until a.d. 37, 
when Herod Agrippa I became king of Judea. 

The Decapolis (lit., “ten cities”) was a group 
of 10 cities established by Greeks in the wake of 
Alexander the Great’s conquest. They enjoyed 
essential independence under Rome. Near Gadara, 
one of the cities, Jesus allowed demons to enter a 
herd of swine (Mark 5:1-20). Jesus became 
popular in the Decapolis (Matthew 4:24-25; Mark 

Perea was the small territory east of the 

Jordan River, opposite Samaria and Judea. Its 
population was primarily Jewish. In the Gospels it 
is never mentioned by name but is referred to as 
the land “beyond the Jordan” (see Matthew 4:15, 
25; 19:1; Mark 3:7-8). John baptized in Bethany 
(KJ\( Bethabara) “on the other side of the Jordan” 
(John 1:28). Jesus did much of His teaching in 
Perea and made his final journey to Jerusalem from 
there (John 10:40; 11:54). 

2. The Diaspora, or Dispersion 

Diaspora refers to the Jews living outside 
Palestine while maintaining their religious faith. 
The two deportations — first of the northern 
kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 B.c,, and 
then of the southern kingdom of Judah by the 
Babylonians in 586 B.c. — had dispersed the Jews. 
Many of those who had been taken to Babylon, and 
their descendants, did not return to Jerusalem 
under Ezra and Nehemiah but chose to stay. 

Then Alexander the Great induced many Jews 
to move to the newly established city of 
Alexandria in Egypt, and from that time on many 

thousands of Jews emigrated to neighboring 
countries for the purpose of trade and commerce. 
In New Testament times there were probably 
several times more Jews living outside Palestine 
than in it. Acts 2:5-12 shows the extent of the 

In the Old Testament, the temple was the focus 
of the religious life of the Israelites. But after the 
Babylonian exile, God-fearing Jews could move to 
other places, far from Jerusalem, because of the 
synagogue, which had come into prominence 
during the Babylonian captivity (see Synagogues in 
the chapter The 400 Years Between the 
Testaments). Almost every city of any importance 
in the Roman Empire had a Jewish colony, each 
with its own synagogue. This was an important 
factor in the spread of Christianity in the first 
decades of the church, since Paul invariably went 
to the synagogue in each city he visited and 
preached there about Jesus. 

(The Diaspora in the four centuries before 

Christ was largely voluntary. But after Jerusalem 
and the temple were destroyed by the Romans in 
a.d. 70 and the Jews lost the right to Palestine, the 
Diaspora became a forced way of life. The 
establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 
allowed many Jews to return, but the Diaspora 
continues for the vast majority of Jews, albeit once 
again voluntarily; see A Brief History of the Holy 
Land and the Jews Since the Time of Christ .) 

C. Religious Changes 

Alexander the Great wanted to do more than 
conquer the world — he wanted to spread Greek 
language and culture everywhere. He succeeded, 
even after his empire was divided and later 
absorbed into the Roman Empire. The name for 
this spread of Greek language, culture, and thought 
is Hellenism (from Hellas, the Greek name for 
Greece). The purpose of Hellenism was at least in 
part political: by creating a single culture it would 
be possible to govern an empire that consisted of 
many and diverse nations and cultures. 

Greek did indeed become more or less the 
lingua franca of the civilized world. And Greek 
culture — though mixed with local elements — gave 
a coherence of thought and values that persisted 
even after the Roman Empire swallowed up what 
was left of Alexander the Great’s empire. 

Hellenism was cosmopolitan in outlook. It 
tried to minimize local, parochial viewpoints and 
replace them with a cosmopolitan Hellenistic 

Part of the Jewish population (including many 
of its leaders) endorsed Hellenism, while another 
part (especially the common man) strongly resisted 
it. (One reason behind the desecration of the 
temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes [see above] 
was that he got tired of the Jews’ insistence on 
remaining different and staying outside the more 
cosmopolitan culture, so he decided to force the 
issue, greatly underestimating the depth of Jewish 
convictions.) It was out of this struggle with 
Hellenism, which was political as well as cultural 
and religious, that the two main parties of the 
Judaism of Jesus’ day emerged. 

1. Religious Parties 

The Pharisees 

The two main parties within the Judaism of 
Jesus’ day were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 
As Hellenism began to encroach on the religious 
life of the Jews, the unavoidable question was how 
the Law of God should be applied in the new 
circumstances. The Pharisees took the Scriptures 
and believed that it was their responsibility to 
determine how the Law should be applied to new 
conditions and how it should, if necessary, be 
reinterpreted. This led to the prominence of the 
teachers of the Law (or scribes, see Teachers of 
the Law fScribesf in the chapter The 400 Years 
Between the Testaments) during the time between 
the Testaments. The Pharisees accepted both the 
Torah (Law) and tradition (the applications of the 
Law as taught by earlier teachers of the Law). The 
Sadducees, by contrast, made no such effort. They 
did not try to adapt God’s Law to the new situation 
but limited themselves to the five books of Moses; 
they did not even accept the authority of the 

prophets and other Scriptures. 

The Pharisees and Jesus often clashed — yet 
they had much in common theologically, and Jesus 
had many nonadversarial contacts with Pharisees 
(Luke 7:36ff.; 11:37; 13:31-33; 14:1; Mark 12:28- 
34; Matthew 23:1-2). At the same time, Jesus 
rejected the validity of the oral laws of the 
Pharisees (see “Teachers of the Law t Scribes)” in 
the chapter The 400 Years Between the 
Testaments) and also their emphasis on ritual 
purity that made the Pharisees refuse any contact 
with “sinners.” Jesus came with the invitation to 
all people to enter the kingdom of God (including 
the Pharisees), while the Pharisees in effect 
disinvited all who did not live by the same 
standards as they — which was most people. It was 
especially this exclusivism that Jesus objected to 
in the Pharisees; by using only standards of 
external behavior to measure people’s relationship 
with God, they failed to realize that it is what is 
inside a person that counts, and that they therefore 
needed God’s grace as much as the worst sinner. 
And it was this external religion that made it very 
difficult for them to believe in Jesus (who did not 

do all the things the Pharisees felt a religious 
person should do). 

The Sadducees 

The party of the Sadducees consisted of 
wealthy priests and their friends in the aristocracy. 
They were religiously conservative in that they 
accepted the authority of the five books of Moses 
but not of the prophets and other later writings. 
Thus, when they question Jesus about the 
resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33), Jesus uses a 
quote from Exodus 3:6, since a quote from the 
prophets would not have carried weight with them. 
At the same time, they were the group who 
wielded political power, which led them to 
endorse — for pragmatic purposes — some aspects 
of Hellenism. When Palestine became part of the 
Roman Empire, the Sadducees collaborated with 
the Romans and tried to maintain the status quo, 
lest they lose their position of leadership. 

The Sadducees had more power than the 
Pharisees (although the common people sided with 
the Pharisees) until a.d. 70. With the destruction of 

the temple — the focus of their power — the 
Sadducees simply ceased to have any role and 
disappeared. The Pharisees, on the other hand, 
became the true leaders of the Jewish people after 
a.d. 70 by providing them with a religious life 
apart from the temple. After the failed revolution 
of Bar Kochba (a.d. 132-35; see The Second 
Revolt in the chapter A Brief History of the Holy 
Land and the Jews Since the Time of Christ) the 
Romans recognized the Pharisees as the governing 
body for Jewish life. 

Other Parties 

Two other parties are mentioned in the New 
Testament, the Zealots and the Herodians. They 
were more political than religious in nature. 

Zealots: The Zealots were a nationalistic party 
that fiercely opposed the Roman occupation. It is 
not certain whether the Zealots were already a 
party by the time of Jesus’ ministry or did not 
become a party until later. One of Jesus’ disciples 
was Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15); if there was 
already a party or group known as Zealots, Simon 

may have belonged to them. If not, “Zealot” may be 
a nickname based on his personality, similar to 
Jesus’ calling John and James “Sons of Thunder.” 

1 The Temple; 2 Western Wall (“Wailing Wall”); 3 Royal Stoa; 
4 Solomon’s Colonnade; 5 Herodian Tower; 6 Antonia 
Fortress; 7 Mount of Olives 

Herodians: Nothing is known about the 
Herodians except that, judging from their name, 
they apparently supported the Herodian dynasty 
and thus indirectly the rule of Rome. They joined 
the Pharisees in their opposition to Jesus (Matthew 
22: 16; Mark 3:6; 12:13). 

2. Religious Functionaries 

Teachers of the Law (Scribes) 

In antiquity, scribes were a special class of 
people who copied documents and recorded 
information. They were governmental secretaries 
and copyists who copied the Scriptures. As time 
went on, they became more influential and took 
leading roles in government. 

When Judah was deported to Babylonia, the 
people suddenly found themselves in entirely new 
circumstances, and it was not always clear how the 
Law of God applied to specific new situations. 

This is when the scribes became interpreters and 
teachers of the Law. They did now what before the 
Exile the prophets had done: tell the people how to 
live as God’s people. Ezra was a scribe as well as 
a priest, and he took it upon himself to teach the 
Law to the people who had returned from Babylon. 

When during the Hellenistic period many of the 
priests compromised the teachings of the Law by 
embracing pagan ideas and customs, the scribes 
became the defenders of the Law and the teachers 
of the masses. They acted, in fact, like nobility (see 
Matthew 23:5-7; Mark 12:38-39; Luke 11:43; 

The scribes, in their zeal to protect the Law, 
actually added to its requirements — they “built a 
fence around the Law” of detailed, specific 
commandments that would keep the people from 
coming even close to breaking the Law. Lor 
example, the “Sabbath journey” — a specific 
distance one was allowed to walk on the Sabbath 
— was instituted to make sure that the people 
would not break the commandment to rest on the 
Sabbath. But as Jesus pointed out, they were so 

anxious to keep the letter of the Law that they 
failed to either understand or implement its spirit. 
And Jesus refused to be bound by the scribal 
additions to the Law, which earned Him their 
enmity (Mark 12:40; John 20:47). 


According to the Old Testament, all priests had 
to be descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother, from 
the tribe of Levi. The priests were divided into 24 
“courses” or groups, each one of which served in 
the temple one week at a time, twice a year. Most 
priests lived outside Jerusalem (for example, 
Zechariah; Luke 1:8-9). The priests who lived in 
Jerusalem and were connected full-time to the 
temple were considered far more important than 
the ordinary priests. 

High Priest 

The high priest was to be a direct descendant 
of Aaron, the first high priest. It was a hereditary 

During the century of independence under the 

Hasmoneans, the high priest was both the religious 
and the political leader. This led in the end to 
disaster, when the office became for all practical 
purposes secular. During the Roman period, the 
high priest was appointed much like other 
government officials. From the time of Herod the 
Great until the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, 
there were no fewer than 28 high priests! 

Interestingly, it may be that the Jewish leaders 
themselves continued to view a former high priest 
as still having official standing, even though he had 
been deposed, since according to the Law of 
Moses, the high priest remained in office until his 
death. When Jesus was arrested, He was first sent 
to Annas (who had not been high priest for 15 
years!) and only then to Caiaphas, who was the 
high priest at that time. In Acts 4:6, Annas is called 
the high priest, even though technically he no 
longer was. 

Chief Priests 

It is not entirely certain who the chief priests 
were. It is likely that they were past and present 

high priests, or perhaps members of the high- 
priestly families (see Acts 4:6). Or they may have 
included the priests who formed the permanent 
temple staff. In any event, they constituted a well- 
defined group. 


“Rabbi” means “my master,” “my lord.” It was 
used as a general term of respect. John the 
Baptist’s disciples referred to John as rabbi, and 
Jesus was called rabbi by His disciples. John 
explains the term “rabbi” as meaning teacher (John 
1:38; 20:16). Jesus warns His disciples that they 
should not be like the professional scribes in their 
desire to be called rabbi (Matthew 23:2-12). 

“Rabbi” did not become an official title until 
much later. The professional, ordained, salaried 
rabbi did not appear until the Middle Ages. 

The Sanhedrin 

During the reign of the Hellenistic kings (see 
Four Centuries of Political Change in The 400 
Years Between the Testaments), Palestine was 

more or less self-governing. An aristocratic 
council of elders was in charge, presided over by 
the high priest. This group later developed into the 
Sanhedrin, which consisted of elders, chief priests, 
and teachers of the law. 

During the Roman period, the internal 
government of Palestine was largely in the hands 
of the Sanhedrin, and its authority was even 
recognized in the Diaspora (Acts 9:2; 22:5; 

It is probable that the authority of the Sanhedrin 
was limited to Judea after the death of Herod the 
Great, which was why the Sanhedrin could not 
touch Jesus as long as He was in Galilee. The 
Sanhedrin was abolished after the destruction of 
Jerusalem in a.d. 70. 

3. Religious Institutions 

The Temple 

The first “house of God” the Israelites built 
was the tabernacle, a portable tent that could be 
moved around during the wanderings in the 
wilderness immediately after the Exodus (see the 

article The Tabernacle Built in the chapter on 

The first temple in Jerusalem was planned by 
King David and built by his son. King Solomon, 
around 950 B.c. When the Babylonians overran the 
southern kingdom, Judah, in 586 B.c., they 
destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and deported 
the people to Babylonia. This was the beginning of 
the Babylonian exile. 

After King Cyrus allowed the people to return 
to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Ezra, the first 
thing they did was rebuild the temple. But the 
second temple was relatively plain and far less 
imposing than the first temple, which many of those 
who returned had never seen, since they had been 
born in Babylonia. Yet they had heard much about 
it and had perhaps developed a somewhat 
exaggerated idea of the first temple’s splendor. 

When Herod the Great became king, one of the 
things he did to win over the people was to expand 
and beautify the temple. Since the temple stood on 
the top of a hill, the only way to enlarge the temple 
area was to build massive retaining walls and fill 

the area inside the walls to create a great platform. 
Herod doubled the size of the original platform of 
Solomon’s temple. Part of the wall Herod built is 
still visible and is known as the Wailing Wall; it 
shows how remarkable and impressive the temple 
must have been. 

Herod died in 4 B.c,, almost 70 years before 
the temple complex was completely finished (a.d. 
64). Sadly, the finished temple stood for only six 
years in all its splendor. In a.d. 66, the Jews 
revolted against Rome, and four years later, in a.d. 
70, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. 
Today the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque, 
stands where the temple once stood. 

Just outside the temple area, at its northwest 
corner, Herod the Great built a fortress and named 
it the Antonia, after Mark Anthony (best known for 
falling in love with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt). 
The tower overlooked the temple and the temple 
courts and was used by the Romans to keep an eye 
out for disturbances in the temple area and the city. 
The Antonia served its intended purpose when the 
crowd got out of hand and was ready to kill Paul 

(Acts 21:30ff.). There were two flights of stairs 
that connected the fortress (called “the barracks” 
in Acts 21:34) with the temple area; these are the 
stairs the Roman commander and his troops ran 
down, and from which Paul addressed the crowd. 


In the New Testament we encounter synagogues 
everywhere, both in Palestine and throughout the 
Roman Empire. Wherever the apostle Paul went to 
preach, he first went to the synagogue in that city. 

The synagogue was “invented” during the 
Babylonian exile. The temple in Jerusalem — the 
central place of worship for all Jews — had been 
destroyed. So wherever there was a group of Jews, 
they would get together and read and study the 
Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament). These 
meetings then were formalized in the institution of 
the synagogue. 

Unlike the temple, where sacrifices were 
central, in the synagogue the focus was on teaching. 
Any male present could be asked to read from the 
Scriptures — first from the Pentateuch and then from 

the Prophets — and any male present could be 
asked to preach. This is why Jesus could preach in 
the synagogue (Luke 4:16-30), and later Paul also 
(for example, Acts 13: 15fif). 

Christian worship (as well as Muslim 
worship) is patterned after the model of the 

No synagogues have been found that date back to the days of 
Jesus, although the Gospels and Acts indicate that there must 
have been one in every significant town. These remains are 
from the 3rd-century synagogue at Capernaum. 

D. Languages and Writings in 
the New Testament Era 

1. Languages 

Aramaic replaced Hebrew as the common 
language in Palestine after the Babylonian exile. It 
is a Semitic language related to Hebrew, yet 
different enough that it could not be readily 
understood by the average person in Old Testament 
times (see 2 Kings 18:26; also Genesis 31:47, 
where Laban uses Aramaic and Jacob uses 
Hebrew). Aramaic was the language of commerce 
and diplomacy during the centuries before 
Alexander the Great. This is why in the book of 
Ezra we find several official documents in 
Aramaic rather than in Hebrew (Ezra 4:8-6:18 and 
7:12-26; Ezra wrote the connecting verses 
between the documents also in Aramaic). 

Hebrew is the language of the Old Testament. 
But by the time of the New Testament, Hebrew had 
become mainly the language of religion, since the 
Hebrew Bible was written in Hebrew. Many 

people could still read and write Hebrew, but it 
was no longer their everyday language. 

Latin was the language of Rome, but while it 
was the language of imperial officialdom, it was 
not the language commonly spoken throughout the 

Greek was the common language or lingua 
franca that tied the Roman Empire together. Its 
role was similar to that of English in the modern 
world. Alexander the Great had succeeded in 
making the Greek language, and to a large extent 
Greek culture, dominant throughout his empire (see 
The Diaspora, or Dispersion in the chapter The 
400 Years Between the Testaments), and he 
succeeded so well that Greek as the common 
language outlasted his empire by several centuries. 

It is safe to assume that Jesus could read and 
perhaps speak Hebrew (Luke 4:17) but that He 
usually spoke Aramaic. (His command when 
raising Jairus’s daughter was Talitha Koum, which 
is Aramaic for “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) 
He probably also spoke at least some Greek, 
although there is no proof of this. 

The apostles wrote in Greek, although some of 
their letters are clearly written by people who did 
not have a native command of the language. There 
are also “Semiticisms” in the New Testament — 
expressions that are Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) 
in form and would have sounded odd to a native 
Greek speaker. (A modern equivalent would be “I 
make the door closed” — a Germanism for “I close 
the door.”) 

It is thought that Matthew may have first 
written his Gospel in Aramaic and later translated 
it into Greek. 

2. Writings 

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but the 
people spoke mostly Aramaic or Greek. In fact, in 
cities such as Alexandria in Egypt there were many 
Jews whose families had lived there for many 
generations and who spoke only Greek. If Judaism 
was to survive, it was necessary for people to be 
able to read and understand the Old Testament. To 
this end, translations were made and used in Jesus’ 
day: the Septuagint for Greek-speaking Jews and 

the Targums for Aramaic-speaking Jews. 

The Septuagint 

The Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew 
Old Testament into Greek, made in Alexandria. 
According to tradition, 70 Jews, skillful linguists, 
were sent from Jerusalem to Egypt at the request of 
Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.c.) and 

completed the translation in 70 days. 

In reality, the translation was done over a 
period of time. The Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) 
was translated first, and later the rest of the Old 
Testament books were added. It was called the 
Septuagint because of the 70 translators who were 
reputed to have begun it {septuaginta = Greek for 
70; the common abbreviation for Septuagint is 
LXX, the Roman numeral for 70). The quality of 
the translation of the Torah (Pentateuch) is 
excellent, but the other books vary a great deal in 

The Septuagint was in common use in the days 
of Christ. Many of the quotations from the Old 
Testament in the New Testament (which was 

written in Greek) are from the Septuagint. 

The Targums 

The Targums are translations of the Hebrew 
Old Testament books into Aramaic. They were 
originally oral translations, paraphrases, and 
interpretations that had their origin in the 
Babylonian captivity, when Hebrew lost its 
standing as the primary language of the Jewish 
exiles and was replaced by Aramaic. These oral 
paraphrases were later written down and became 
increasingly necessary as the use of Aramaic 
became prevalent in Palestine. In the synagogue, a 
passage would often be read in Hebrew, followed 
by the Targum of that same passage. 

he New Testament 

The Life of Jesus: An 

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not simply 
write about what happened in the past. They wrote 
from the perspective of the Resurrection and the 
coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The did not 
write a story that had an ending, but a story that 
was a beginning — the beginning of the church and 
the beginning of the coming of the kingdom of God. 

They arranged their material in slightly 
different ways because they each had a somewhat 
different audience and purpose (see Why Are 
There Four Gospels? in the chapter The Four 
Gospels: Matthew- John). Sometimes the Gospel 
writers indicate that certain stories happened one 
after the other, at other times they put together a 
number of stories and events because they have a 

similar theme, without any indication that they 
happened in that particular sequence. Besides, 
during the two years or more that the disciples 
spent with Jesus, He must have taught and 
preached similar messages many times, and He 
must have performed similar miracles many times 
— many lame people were healed, many blind 
people could see again, and so forth. 

All this means that it is not easy to fit all the 
materials in the Gospels neatly into a single 
narrative. But the broad outlines are clear. 

The Eight Periods of Jesus’ Life 

For convenience’ sake, the life of Jesus can be 
divided into eight periods, as follows: 

1 . Birth and Youth 

Approx. Duration: 30 years 
Location(s): Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth 

2. Preparation for Mi nistry 
Location(s): Jordan River and wilderness 

3. Early Mi nistry in Judea 

Approx. Duration: 8 months 
Location(s): Judea, Samaria 

4. Mi nistry in Galilee 
Approx. Duration: 2 years 
Location(s): Galilee 

5. Later Ministry in Judea 
Approx. Duration: 1 month 
Location(s): Perea and Judea 

6. Mi nistry in Perea 
Approx. Duration: 4 months 
Location(s): Perea and Judea 

7. The Last Week: Crucifixion and 


Approx. Duration: 7 days 
Location(s): Judea, Jerusalem 

8 . Appearances after the Resurrection 
Approx. Duration: 40 days 
Location(s): Jerusalem, Galilee 

All four Gospels give more space to the last 
week of Jesus’ life, His crucifixion, and His 
resurrection (Period 7) than to any other period. 

The chart below shows the difference in the 
Gospels in the amount of space they devote to 
some of the other periods. 

We will look at each of the eight periods 
briefly. For a detailed outline (“harmony”) of the 
Gospels, see A Harmony of the Gospels in The 
Four Gospels: Matthew-John. 






Pre-Incarnation Existence 
of Jesus 

Jesus' Birth and Youth 





Preparation for Ministry 

John the Baptist 





Jesus' Baptism 




Jesus' Temptation 




Preliminary Miracle 



Early Judean Ministry 

(about 8 months) 


Visit to Samaria 



Galilean Ministry 

(about 2 years) 





Visit to Jerusalem 


Later Judean Ministry 

(about 1 month) 




Perean Ministry 

(about 4 months) 





The Last Week 











Period 1: Jesus’ Birth and Youth 
(About 30 Years) 

• Matthew 1-2 

• Luke 1-2 

Mark and John say nothing about the birth, 
childhood, and youth of Jesus. Matthew and Luke 
record different incidents (see under Luke 1:5-80). 
To harmonize these into exact chronological 
sequence is not easy. Here are probable, 
approximate dates: 

7 or 6 B.c. 

Announcement to Zechariah Luke 1:5-25 
6 months later 

Announcement to Mary Luke 1:26-38 
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth Luke 1:39-56 
3 months later 

Mary’s return to Nazareth Luke 1:56 
Announcement to Joseph Matthew 1:18-24 
Birth of John the Baptist Luke 1:57-80 

6 or 5 B.c. 

Birth of Jesus Matthew 1 :25; Luke 2: 1-7 
Announcement to shepherds Luke 2:8-20 
8 days later 

Jesus’ circumcision Luke 2:21 
32 days later 

Jesus’ presentation Luke 2:22-38 

4 B.C. 

Visit of the Wise Men Matthew 2:1-12 
Flight to Egypt Matthew 2:13-15 
The children of Bethlehem killed Matthew 
3 B.C. 

Return to Nazareth Matthew 2:19-23; Luke 

On What Date Was Jesus Born? 

Jesus’ birthday is now celebrated on December 25, 
but there is nothing in the Bible to support that 
particular date. It first appears as the date of Jesus’ 
birthday in the 4th century, in the Western church. 
In the Eastern church the date is January 6, which 
is celebrated as Epiphany in the Western church. 
(On the division of the church into a Western 

church and an Eastern church, see The Split 
Between East and West in the chapter A Brief 
History of the Western Church.) 

How Could Jesus Have Been 
Born Five or Six Years 
“Before Christ”? 

Placing Jesus’ birth several years b.c., “Before 
Christ,” is not the result of critical scholarship 
trying to undermine the reliability of the Bible. 
Rather, it is the result of a mathematical error 
made by a monk some 1,500 years ago. 

Jesus was born when the Jewish nation was 
part of the Roman Empire, and in the empire, 
years were counted from the founding of the 
city of Rome. But when the Roman Empire fell 
and Christianity became the universal religion 
in what had once been the Roman Empire, a 
monk named Dionysius Exiguus, at the 
request of Emperor Justinian, made a new 

calendar in ad. 526. This calendar was to 
replace the Roman calendar, and it counted 
years from the birth of Christ. 

The new calendar divided history into the 
years before Christ (b.c.) and after the birth of 
Christ (a.d., which stands for Anno Domini, “in 
the year of [our] Lord”). 

However, long after the Christian calendar 
had replaced the Roman calendar, it was 
discovered that Dionysius had made a 
mistake. He had placed the birth of Jesus in 
753 AUC (Ab Urbe Condita, “From the 
founding of the city [of Rome]”). He should 
have placed it a few years earlier, in about 
749 or even 747 AUC. 

The Journey to Bethlehem. Egypt, and Nazareth 

Mediterranean Sea 

December 25 as the date to celebrate the birth 
of Jesus goes back to at least the 4th century, 
although the reasons for the choice of this date are 
obscure. In some countries (such as Britain), 
Christmas replaced an existing, pre-Christian 

Period 2: Preparation for 

John the Baptist; Jesus’ Baptism and 

• Matthew 3: 1-4: 11 

• Mark 1:1—13 

• Luke 3: 1-4: 13 

• John 1:6-42 

Jesus' Baptism and Temptation 

This is a brief but important period in Jesus’ 
life. John the Baptist was the one who prepared the 
way for the expected Messiah, as foretold by the 
prophet Isaiah. He set the stage for Jesus’ ministry 
by preaching the need for repentance in the face of 
the coming of the kingdom of God. He helped focus 
the expectation of the nation so that when Jesus 
began His ministry, the people were prepared. 

Early Judean Ministry 



^ O 


Mt. Carmel 

Nazareth A 

Mt Tabor 


Samaria • I 
Jacob's VMt \ 

Mt Gerizim 

• Bethany? 

0 10 20 30 40 miles * 

20 40 GO kikirTMMn 

Jesus insisted on being baptized by John — He 

gave His endorsement to John’s ministry, and God 
in turn gave Jesus His endorsement: “This is my 
Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” 
(Matthew 3:17). 

Jesus then went into the wilderness for 40 days 
and was tempted by Satan three times — and each 
time Jesus appealed to God’s Word: “It is written” 
(Matthew 4:4, 6, 10; Luke 4:4, 8, 10). 

John’s Gospel does not mention Jesus’ baptism 
and temptation. 

Period 3: Jesus’ Early Ministry 
in Judea (About 8 Months) 

• John 2: 1-4:42 

This period, which probably lasted about eight 
months, is recorded only in the gospel of John 
(2:1-4:42). The period in Judea is preceded by a 
miracle in Cana, in Galilee, where Jesus turned 
water into wine, and it concludes with Jesus’ visit 
with the Samaritan woman. Jesus’ nighttime visit 

with Nicodemus, in which He explains the need to 
be born again, also takes place dur